USA Happy Snack

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: USA Happy Snack! Did I ever tell you I spent my childhood surrounded by apple trees? It’s one of my favorite memories, growing up in the Midwest. If I was in a feisty mood, I’d nibble on sour green apples. Forget that my impatience may have caused a tart pursing of the lips and a slight ache in the stomach. As the apples ripened, I’d pluck the prettiest one off the tree, rub it against my knee for a mirrored sheen, and admire its beauty. Sometimes I’d twist the stem until it broke, reciting my ABCs. Whatever letter I was on when the stem splintered away became the name of my next boyfriend. But not if it matched my brothers’ names. That didn’t count. Here’s to all-American healthy food wrapped up in a little nostalgia.

USA HAPPY SNACK

Ingredients:

1 Gala apple, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 slices smoked Virginia ham

4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thick

Fresh mint

Instructions:

Brush the sliced apples with lemon juice to prevent browning. Cut the ham slices in half. Take one apple slice and place it on top of a piece of cheddar cheese. Wrap them with one piece of ham, seam side down. Tuck a sprig of fresh mint into the snack. Enjoy!

Quesadilla Egg Scramble

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Quesadilla Egg Scramble! Whether you stack it or fold it, everyone loves a quesadilla. I mean, just say the word, “cay-sah-dee-ya”. It rolls off the tongue naturally as images of gooey melted cheese swim through your mind. Just the thought of a golden brown crispy tortilla dribbled with spicy salsa is enough to make a foodie salivate. Throw in your morning’s scrambled eggs along with slivers of last night’s pork roast and you have a reason to hit the floor running. Quesadilla!

QUESADILLA EGG SCRAMBLE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup shredded pork

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons light cream

1 tablespoon butter

2 corn tortillas

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup salsa

Green onion for garnish

Instructions:

Heat shredded pork and set aside. Whisk together eggs and light cream. In a small skillet, heat butter over low heat. Do not scorch. Add egg mixture. Scramble to cook eggs until soft and creamy. Set aside. To assemble quesadilla, place one corn tortilla on a plate. Top with cooked eggs, shredded pork, and cheese. Cover with the second tortilla. Brush the bottom of an iron skillet with olive oil. Carefully transfer the quesadilla to the skillet. Cook on medium heat for one minute until crispy. Brush the top with olive oil. Using a large spatula, flip the tortilla and brown for an additional minute. Remove from heat. Cut quesadilla into wedges. Serve with salsa and green onions.

Buffalo Chicken Crostini

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Buffalo Chicken Crostini! Take a spicy hot dip, add the buttery texture of avocado, and finish it with the cooling sensation of natural yogurt. Now smile. You’ve just bitten into an appetizer-turned-meal after an exhausting day you’ll soon leave behind. This is how we treat ourselves right. You’re welcome.

BUFFALO CHICKEN CROSTINI

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup ranch dressing

1 tablespoon dry ranch seasoning mix

3/4 cup red hot sauce

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped

3/4 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 avocado, pitted

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

1-2 green onions, snipped

1 baguette loaf, sliced and toasted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat Neufchâtel cheese, goat cheese, ranch dressing, ranch dry seasoning, and red hot sauce. Fold in chopped chicken. Spread mixture into a prepared casserole dish. Bake 15 minutes. Sprinkle extra-sharp cheddar cheese over top. Bake 15 minutes longer. Meanwhile, using a mini chopper, combine avocado, garlic powder, sea salt, and lemon juice. Pulse until mixture is combined but still chunky. Set aside. To assemble crostini, spread creamed avocado over toasted baguette slices. Add a scoop of Buffalo Chicken dip. Dollop with Greek yogurt. Garnish with onion snips.

Zucchini Cornbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Zucchini Cornbread! Jazz up the breadbasket with homemade cornbread that has been enhanced with garden-fresh chopped zucchini and jalapeño peppers. Mix it together in a blend of cornmeal and cheddar cheese before popping it in the oven. Thirty minutes later the aromas rev up your appetite. Can you say “Yum”? Zucchini Cornbread goes especially well with grilled barbecue meats and seafood. Now this is how we kick off the summertime months.

ZUCCHINI CORNBREAD

Ingredients:

1 zucchini, chopped

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/4 cup skim milk

2-3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

For garnish, reserve a few zucchini slices, jalapeño pepper slices, and shredded cheese for topping

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a nonstick ovenproof dish or iron skillet with nonstick oil. Mix together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Set aside. Blend beaten eggs, vegetable oil, and skim milk. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients. Sir just until blended. Fold in chopped zucchini, chopped jalapeño peppers, red pepper flakes, and cheddar cheese. Pour into prepared iron skillet. If you prefer a garnish, place a couple zucchini slices and jalapeño pepper slices on top. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake 30-35 minutes until center is set and edges are crisp.

Lobster-Mate Cheddar Biscuits

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Lobster-Mate Cheddar Biscuits! Having to shelter-in-place during the pandemic does not mean that restaurant cravings just stop. I see you nodding your head in agreement. If I named a restaurant, chances are you would say, “Oh, I love their…steak burgers, iced tea, queso dip, sweet potato wedges, or cheddar biscuits.” Admit it, dining out is a fact of life and we miss it right now. So, the alternative is to give it our best shot at home. Thanks to my friend, Colleen, for her blog post* on a name-brand seafood restaurant’s copycat recipe for the bread basket. These cheddar biscuits are spot on. I guarantee you, the results will astound you.

LOBSTER-MATE CHEDDAR BISCUITS

Ingredients:

4 cups prepared baking mix

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/3 cup water

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion salt

Dill weed, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Combine baking mix, cheddar cheese, and water in a bowl. Mix well. Drop biscuits by spoonful on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, garlic powder, and onion salt. Brush butter mixture over warm cheddar biscuits. Sprinkle with dill weed. Serve warm.

*Check out Colleen’s recipe at

http://leencuisine.com/2020/12/01

Unbelievable Cheesy Pimento Spread

Experience the Holidays: Unbelievable Cheesy Pimiento Spread! If you’re a cheese lover, this is a “must-do” appetizer. It is guaranteed to bring big raves at the next holiday gathering. The smokey-peppery version is sure to test your willpower. Should it just be slathered on crackers or bagel chips? What about apple slices? Or will you take it one step further and build a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread? Whatever you choose, create all sorts of ideas for enhancing this nostalgic Southern favorite.

UNBELIEVABLE CHEESY PIMENTO SPREAD

Ingredients:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons French Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

4-ounce jar of diced pimientos, drained

2 green onions, snipped

8 ounces extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese, finely shredded

10 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, medium shredded

1 teaspoon sriracha hot chili sauce (optional)

Instructions:

In a large bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, seasoned salt, and pepper. Mix well. Fold in pimientos and onions. Stir in both cheeses until blended. Add sriracha for a kick of heat. Chill one hour or overnight.

Serving Suggestion: Serve as an Appetizer with crackers or assorted vegetables. Also excellent as finger sandwiches.

*For block cheeses, grate one kind with small holes and the other with medium holes on a box grater or using food processor blades.

Original Pistachio Party Ball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Original Pistachio Party Ball! Nothing says par-tay like a holiday cheese ball. Instead of picking one up at the grocery store this year, why not surprise the family and make something a little different. Pistachios tend to be shoved aside in favor of walnuts and pecans, mostly due to their cost. But I guarantee you, people will sit up and take notice of them embedded in this party cheese ball. A little goes a long way, especially when rolled on the outside of the cheese ball. For those who enjoy the experience of cracking the shell to pluck out the pistachio, you not only get to nibble as you crack, you also justify the savings involved over the cost of pistachios without shells. Now there’s a thought worth considering.

ORIGINAL PISTACHIO PARTY BALL

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon zesty Italian salad dressing dry mix

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions:

In a bowl, cream together Neufchâtel cheese and unsalted butter until smooth. Sprinkle in zesty Italian dry mix. Mix well. Add Worcestershire sauce and red pepper flakes. Fold in sharp cheddar cheese. Stir until well combined. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Layer with chopped pistachio nuts. Transfer cheese mixture onto the nuts. Wearing disposable gloves, form the cheese mixture into a ball, turning to cover each side with chopped nuts. When completely covered, wrap the pistachio cheese ball in a clean piece of plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour to intensify flavors. Serve with assorted crackers.

New Potatoes Smashed

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: New Potatoes Smashed! Is it a baked potato? A mashed potato? A fried potato? Or all three?! What it is, is freaking fantastic! Forget about dinner conversation. As soon as you place a platter of these tasty gems on the table, all bets are off. Don’t blame your partner or the kids, they don’t want to talk with their mouths full. These potatoes have a soft, earthy flavor surrounded by a crispy outer skin. Cheese and bacon make them downright irresistible. But don’t get carried away. Repeat after me: “This is meant to be a side dish.”

NEW POTATOES SMASHED

Ingredients:

1 pound new red potatoes, skin on

2 teaspoons, plus 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

2 slices applewood bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 green onions, chopped

Instructions:

Put the red potatoes in a pot. Add enough water to cover by one inch. Add 2 teaspoons sea salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and cook until potatoes pierce easily with a knife, about 20 minutes. While potatoes cook, preheat oven to 425°. Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet. Drain potatoes; allow to cool for 5 minutes. Arrange the cooked potatoes on the prepared baking sheet. Carefully use a fork to gently “smash” the potatoes. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over potatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cracked black pepper. Bake 30 minutes until potatoes are crispy. Remove from oven, add shredded cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles. Broil for one minute, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve warm.

Bacon and Egg Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Bacon and Egg Mac’n Cheese! Grab onto your seat because this dish is going to leave you shouting to the rooftops like a kid on a tire swing. Remember how everyone in the neighborhood would congregate around the sturdy oak, count to three, and then pile on the tire like a bunch of monkeys? The biggest guy was always left behind to spin it around like a giant top before grabbing the rope and jumping aboard. The peals of laughter echoed around the block and seemed to go on forever. It’s a wonder the branch didn’t break, or worse.

BACON AND EGG MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

1 cup bow tie pasta

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup skim milk

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

3 slices American cheese

1/4 cup feta cheese

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

4 strips precooked bacon, crumbled

2 tablespoons red peppers, chopped

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 eggs, fried according to preference

2 green onions, snipped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 2 individual casserole pans with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook pasta in salted water, according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In a medium saucepan, warm the butter over medium-low heat. Add the drained pasta and skim milk. Stir. Add cheddar cheese, American cheese, feta cheese, and parmesan cheese. Stir occasionally until completely melted. Fold in crumbled bacon and chopped red peppers. Divide between the two casserole pans. In a small dish, combine panko seasoned bread crumbs and olive oil. Stir to moisten. Sprinkle over top. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the eggs, according to preference. Remove the casserole pans from the oven. Place one fried egg on top of each. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve immediately.