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.

Vermont Cheddar Multigrain Toast

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Hungry Man Potato Skins

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Dill Pickle Cheese Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Dill Pickle Cheese Spread! You’ve heard of pregnant women craving dill pickles, toddlers munching on them, bar patrons dunking a spear in a mug of beer, and families gobbling down an order of fried dill pickle chips. So what’s the buzz? Why is everyone going crazy over dill pickles? First of all, they practically have no calories at all. They have a crunch that makes your mouth smile. Dill pickles ease in digestion, heartburn, and bloating. Plus, their saltiness helps the body absorb water. I’m sure you can come up with a few reasons of your own.

DILL PICKLE CHEESE SPREAD

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup dill pickle relish, drained

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Assorted vegetables, crackers, and pretzels

Instructions:

Combine cream cheese, dill pickle relish, green onions, Worcestershire sauce, and mayonnaise. Beat until smooth. Fold in cheddar cheese. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with veggies, crackers, and pretzels. Also good on deli sandwiches.

Quarantined Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Quarantined Mac ‘n Cheese! We all know the effects of social distancing and being quarantined at home. It can reek havoc on mental health and increase anxiety, that’s for sure. Rising costs of groceries can contribute to feelings of fear, worry, and frustration as well. That’s when comfort foods come to the rescue. I actually made this dish when my kitchen was being renovated during the pandemic and all I had was a counter microwave for cooking meals. This one-bowl meal eased the pain of feeling like things were out of control. Perhaps it may help you, too.

QUARANTINED MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients For One:

1/2 cup dried macaroni pasta

1/2 cup water

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Everything But Bagel Seasoning, for garnish

Instructions:

In a deep microwave-safe dish, combine macaroni pasta, water, and sea salt. Stir to combine. Microwave uncovered on high power for 2 minutes. Stir. Repeat for 4-8 minutes longer, stirring every 2 minutes until pasta is cooked. Using oven mitts, remove dish from microwave. Stir in milk, butter, and cheddar cheese. Microwave on high power in 30-second intervals until cheese has melted and forms a creamy sauce. This will take about 90 seconds total. Garnish with a sprinkling of Everything But Bagel Seasoning. Serve immediately.

Original Pistachio Party Ball

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: 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.

Neufchâtel Nibblets

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Holiday Food Gifts: Neufchâtel Nibblets! Instead of serving the traditional large cheese ball at your next group gathering, think about individual portions. As a centerpiece on a buffet table, a cheeseball makes a great focal point until someone digs in. Then it immediately loses its form. On the other hand, nibblets remain appealing. Finger food is always a good idea, in my opinion. Not only are they fun to eat, they make things easier for walking around the edge of a party. Grab a few crackers and nibble away.

NEUFCHÂTEL NIBBLETS

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese, softened

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/3 cup Swiss cheese, shredded

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Carrot sticks, cut 3 inches long

Celery sticks, cut 3 inches long

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a mixing bowl combine Neufchâtel cheese, softened butter, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and smoked paprika. Mix well. Using a cookie scoop, form mixture into balls, transfer to prepared baking sheet, and refrigerate one hour or until balls are firm. In a shallow dish, combine fresh chives and chopped pecans. Gently press chilled cheeseballs in nut mixture. Insert vegetable stick into each cheeseball. Arrange a platter and serve.

Shepherd’s Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Shepherd’s Pie! Chicken or Beef? That’s the biggest decision you need to make with this tasty comfort food recipe. If you follow tradition, no doubt you would choose beef. That’s fine. I, on the other hand, was in the mood for chicken. Either way the cheesy potato crust, over a savory blanket of gravy, is the star attraction. If you are searching for a great weeknight meal without all the fuss, warm up your kitchen, kick back, and relax.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

Ingredients:

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 1/4 cups water

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/4 pounds chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, and cut into chunks

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

16 ounces frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1 cup mashed potatoes

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the cream of mushroom soup and water in a large bowl. Stir well. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add chicken chunks, black pepper, onion powder, and poultry seasoning. Cook until well browned. Transfer the chicken to the soup mixture. Add mixed vegetables. Stir to coat. Spoon chicken filling into a 2-quart casserole dish. Spread mashed potatoes over chicken layer. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake 40 minutes or until chicken filling is hot and bubbly.