Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese! I find this is seriously the best way to make macaroni and cheese for a crowd without all the fuss. It is so kid-friendly, in fact, you may discover you have an extra pair of helping hands without even asking. When using a slow cooker, the pasta softens as the sauce thickens into a hot, creamy, extra-cheesy youthful delight. Top it off with crushed potato chips for a heart-warming side dish.

CROCKPOT MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

1 pound cellentani pasta, also known as cavatappi, uncooked

4 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 cup potato chips, crushed

Instructions:

Spray the crockpot with nonstick oil. Pour the uncooked pasta into the bottom of the slow cooker. Layer the butter and cream cheese chunks over the pasta. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, milk, and cream. Mix well. Pour over pasta. Stir to blend. Spread pasta into an even layer, being sure to coat everything in sauce. Cover and cook on LOW for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Be sure to spread macaroni into one layer after stirring to keep pasta coated with sauce. When pasta is done, sprinkle shredded cheddar and pepper jack over all. Stir to combine. Replace cover and cook 10 minutes until cheese is creamy and melted. Sprinkle with crushed potato chips before serving.

Positively Popular Poutine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Positively Popular Poutine! While traveling to Canada recently, I was taken aback by a friendly waitress who recommended a very popular dish on the menu made with crispy French fries, fresh cheese curds, and rich brown gravy. She called it Poutine. Like a deer in the headlights, I was completely frozen at the thought. So I shook my head no, thanked her, and ordered my fries plain. By the end of the meal I was convinced I had missed out on something spectacular. Practically every restaurant listed Poutine as their specialty. Some Poutine platters were loaded with bacon, others chunk lobster, beef brisket, jerk chicken, or sautéed veggies. One place even boasted “Award Winning Poutine” and stayed open til 4:00 a.m. just to meet the late-night cravings of college students. Maybe this dish will catch on, after all.

POSITIVELY POPULAR POUTINE

Ingredients:

2 pound bag of frozen extra crispy seasoned crinkle fries

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

2 cups cheddar cheese curds, white and yellow

1-2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup cold water

2 cups beef broth

Fresh parsley to garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Arrange frozen French fries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Season with sea salt and black pepper, to taste. For the gravy, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not scorch. Whisk together cornstarch and cold water until no lumps remain. Add cornstarch mixture to melted butter, stirring constantly. Gradually add beef broth, continuing to stir until all broth is used. Bring gravy to a boil, as you stir. Allow gravy to boil at least one minute to dissolve thickener. Reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. Divide the crinkle fries among serving bowls. Cover each bowl with cheese curds. Ladle rich brown gravy over each portion. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Underwood Chicken Pâté

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Underwood Chicken Pâté! Sometimes you need a snack or an appetizer in a pinch for hungry grandkids, neighbors relaxing on the back porch, or late night munchies. A quick solution can be found in the kitchen pantry with premium quality canned meats. Simply add cheese, veggies, and spice for a people-pleasing dip that hits the spot. Adding a side of pepper jelly is a nice compliment to the creamy dip.

UNDERWOOD CHICKEN PÂTÉ

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, extra-sharp, finely shredded

2 tablespoons red onion, diced

1/3 cup celery, chopped

1/8 teaspoon celery seed

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4.25 ounce can Underwood Chicken Spread

1 sprig of tarragon

Cilantro for garnish

Instructions:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, cheddar cheese, red onion, chopped celery, celery seed, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Fold in Chicken Spread and fresh tarragon leaves. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with toasted baguette slices or assorted crackers.

Red Onion Chorizo Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Red Onion Chorizo Flatbread! Get your spice on as we crank up the taste buds a notch or two for a Spanish twist on an old European favorite. Chorizo is a type of pork sausage that made its way to Mexico and South America years ago. Cured in vinegar and chili powder before it reaches the supermarket makes it a spicy favorite from the first bite. Now add cheese and red onions for a complete taste explosion.

RED ONION CHORIZO FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 prepared flatbread

8 ounces chorizo sausage

1 medium red onion, sliced and divided

1/4 cup salsa or pico de gallo

6 ounces Mexican cheese blend, shredded

6 Ciliegine mozzarella balls (cherry size)

Fresh cilantro and oregano leaves for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush olive oil on the bottom of flatbread. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake 5 minutes, then remove flatbread from oven and set aside. In an iron skillet over medium heat, cook chorizo sausage until browned, about 5 minutes. Add red onion pieces, reserving a few raw onion rings for topping. Cook, stirring often, until onions are softened, about 4 minutes. If using pico de gallo, Pulse in a mini chopper to create a sauce consistency. Spread salsa or pico de gallo over flatbread, stopping 1/2″ from the edge. Sprinkle Mexican cheese blend over sauce. Layer next with chorizo/onion mixture. Press Ciliegine mozzarella balls on top. Finish with the red onion rings. Bake 12-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Garnish with fresh cilantro and oregano leaves.

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