Wacho Nacho

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Wacho Nachos! What do you get when you mix sweet potato waffle fries and savory nacho toppings? Wacho Nachos! The grilled chicken, vine-ripe tomatoes, and spicy jalapeños provide a familiar face, but it’s all about the base. By choosing a healthy serving of sweet potato waffle fries, the crispy crunch offers an appealing meal instead of a junk food snack. Step aside tortilla chips, waffle fries are taking center stage!

WACHO NACHOS

19-ounce bag frozen sweet potato fries

2 cups precooked grilled chicken strips, cut into chunks

2 cups Colby and Monterey Jack Cheese, finely shredded

1 large vine-ripe tomato, chopped

1/4 cup sliced jalapeños

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup green onion snips

Instructions:

Bake the waffle fries according to package directions. Arrange individual casserole dishes with a single layer of crispy sweet potato waffle fries, lining the edges to hold in the toppings. Divide the grilled chicken chunks and shredded cheese equally. Top with tomatoes and jalapeño slices. Return to the oven until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Remove casseroles from the oven. Top with Greek yogurt and green onions. Serve immediately.

Unconventional Peach Side Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Unconventional Peach Side Salad! What a blessing to partake in the abundance of plump and juicy peaches. The options are endless. For instance, I like to substitute tomatoes for fresh peaches in a side salad. By adding the buttery taste of Gorgonzola cheese, it creates a robust flavor that easily compliments the sweetness of the peach. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Oh my!

UNCONVENTIONAL PEACH SIDE SALAD

Ingredients:

1-2 fresh peaches, washed and skin on

2 cups organic salad greens

1/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons pecan bits

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

2 tablespoons pomegranate balsamic reduction

Croutons for garnish

Instructions:

Cut peaches into wedges. Divide organic salad greens into shallow serving dishes. Distribute peach slices. Sprinkle with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and pecan bits. Drizzle lemon olive oil and pomegranate balsamic reduction sauce over all. Garnish with toasted croutons.

Street Tacos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Street Tacos! This is literally Cooking 101. I have been making tacos since I was 16 years old, before microwave ovens and gourmet kitchens were commonplace. My Aunt Gail, in Michigan, taught me the timeless secrets of a classic Mexican staple. First of all, you must use authentic yellow corn tortillas. Forget the box because you’re going to fry up the shells for freshness. It’s worth the effort, believe me.

STREET TACOS

Ingredients:

16-ounce package yellow corn tortillas

2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef, lean

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 green onions, snipped

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Shredded lettuce

Fresh cilantro

Pico de Gallo or salsa

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. Brown ground beef in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the beef is crumbly. Drain, if necessary. Season beef with garlic, cumin powder, onion powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add tortilla; cook 10 seconds per side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat until all tortillas have been fried. Reduce heat. One at a time, place a tortilla back into the skillet. Add 1-2 tablespoons ground beef mixture into each tortilla. Fold in half and place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all tortillas and ground beef are used. Warm in the oven until ready to serve. Assemble street tacos, per taste, with shredded lettuce, onion, cheese, cilantro, and Pico de Gallo.

Quesadilla Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Quesadilla Burger! Two layers of gooey melted cheese sandwiched inside a flour tortilla is just the beginning. Add an Angus beef patty butter-fried in an iron skillet and savor the aromas. Take a walk on the wild side by adding sliced jalapeño peppers for a little heat. After that, who cares? Go crazy with your favorite condiments. Anything goes!

QUESADILLA BURGER

Ingredients:

1 pound Angus ground beef

1 beef bouillon cube

1-2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 flour tortillas

1/4 wedge lettuce, shredded

1 medium tomato, sliced

1/2 red onion, sliced

1/4 cup pickled jalapeño peppers, sliced

Condiments to taste

Instructions:

In a small bowl, microwave water for 1 minute, 45 seconds. Dissolve bouillon cube. Add mixture to ground beef, working to incorporate. Form beef into 4 quarter pound patties. Refrigerate until ready to use. Preheat oven to 350°. Place tortillas to lay flat on a baking sheet. Divide cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese between four tortillas, stopping before the edges. Bake 4-5 minutes until cheese melts. Remove and set aside. Meanwhile, add butter to an iron skillet set on medium-high heat. Cook burger patties 3 minutes on one side. Flip and cook 3 minutes longer. Take one burger, insert into a cheesy tortilla, fold over, and place back into the skillet just until shell is golden, about one minute. Remove from skillet. Add lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeño peppers, and other condiments.

Peaches Hot Off the Grill

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Peaches Hot Off the Grill! Need a salad tonight? Take the easy way out and throw a couple peaches on the grill. You can even leave the skin on, like I did. In a few minutes, you’ll be savoring their remarkable flavor on a bed of mixed greens. As the family claps their hands in delight, simply take a bow and chirp, “You’re welcome!”

PEACHES HOT OFF THE GRILL

Ingredients:

2 large fresh peaches, halved and pitted

1-2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1/3 cup Bleu cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons pecan bits

Mixed Greens

Lemon Olive Oil to taste

Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar to taste

Instructions:

Preheat gas grill on medium-high heat. Brush cut side of each peach half with lemon olive oil. Place cut side down on grill. Cook for 5 minutes. Flesh will be slightly charred. Turn peaches over and cook 2 minutes longer. Meanwhile divide salad greens between individual plates. Transfer one peach half to each bed of greens. Sprinkle with crumbled Bleu cheese and pecan bits. Drizzle with additional lemon olive oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar to taste.

Mini Caprese Skewers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Mini Caprese Skewers! Can you tell I’m trying to squeeze as many foods in my picnic basket as possible before Summer ends? For a quick veggie burst of flavor, these off-the-vine cherry tomatoes are a match made in heaven when paired with fresh basil. It doesn’t hurt that the marinated mozzarella balls are skewered together for lovely presentation. It’s all about the finger food.

MINI CAPRESE SKEWERS

Ingredients:

12 mozzarella balls

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon Italian spice blend

24 fresh basil leaves

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

12 black olives, sliced

Olive oil for drizzling

Instructions:

In a shallow bowl, place mozzarella balls. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with Italian spices. Toss cheese to cover well. Beginning with a cherry tomato half, thread tomato on a toothpick or skewer. Then place one basil leaf, followed by a marinated mozzarella ball. Finish with the remaining cherry tomato and another basil leaf. Repeat with remaining cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella balls. Thread black olives on separate skewers. Drizzle olive oil mixture over finished caprese skewers. Transport in jars or covered containers.

Liptauer Cheese Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Liptauer Cheese Spread! I love appetizers. Mostly because they give you permission to graze through a meal. Some say by eating smaller meals more frequently, it can lead to a longer, healthier life. So, around dinner time you could find me uncorking a bottle of nice red wine and nibbling on fruit, cheese, and crudités. This mellow cheese spread offers a blend of anchovy-stuffed green olives, sweet onions, salty capers, and spicy French Dijon mustard. Permission granted, my friends.

LIPTAUER CHEESE SPREAD

Ingredients:

8-ounce block of Neufchâtel cheese

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 tablespoons Vidalia onion, finely chopped

12 anchovy-stuffed green olives, finely chopped

1 teaspoon French Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon imported capers, chopped

1 teaspoon caraway seed

1 teaspoon paprika

Instructions:

Combine softened Neufchâtel cheese and butter. Mix until smooth. Add Vidalia onion, anchovy-stuffed green olives, French Dijon mustard, imported capers, caraway seed, and paprika. Mix well. Form into a ball. Chill for one hour. Garnish with parsley. Serve with toasted baguette slices and vegetable crudités.

Foolproof Strawberry Galette

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Foolproof Strawberry Galette! It’s more than the sweet strawberries that make this an appealing dessert. In my opinion, the delicious buttery cream cheese crust is as good as it gets. First of all, to keep your galette foolproof, here are a few tips. Make sure the dough is not too moist or it will turn chewy instead of crisp. Pay attention to the strawberries. If they appear too juicy, add more cornstarch to help the filling thicken. And don’t overfill the galette. Remember, there is no pie plate to contain the abundance. It’s better to make two smaller galettes than a big sloppy one. And lastly, be sure to use parchment paper on the baking sheet or you may find yourself replacing bakeware from the runoff. All that being said, let’s roll.

FOOLPROOF STRAWBERRY GALETTE

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon sugar

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, cubed

1/2 cup butter, cold and cubed

2 pounds strawberries, hulled and cut up

1-2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons sanding sugar

Instructions:

Pulse flour, sea salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a food processor. Add Neufchâtel cheese and butter. Pulse until crumbly. Add 3-4 tablespoons of ice water and pulse just until dough forms a ball. Remove onto a lightly floured board. Gently knead to tighten dough. Pat into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one hour. Unwrap dough and roll to 1/8 inch thickness between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Create a 12″ diameter circle. Transfer dough to a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, toss strawberries with cornstarch, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and 1/4 cup sugar. Leaving an inch border, arrange strawberries atop dough. Fold border up and over strawberries to create a rim. Brush crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake galette 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Underrated Summertime Supper

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Underrated Summertime Supper! Does anyone have a Himalayan Salt Block besides me? Well, one of the things I like about it is, it can take the guesswork out of adding seasoning to food. It’s a block of pink salt, after all. When serving cold foods like salads, fruits, and cheeses, refrigerate the salt block overnight before using. This helps to keep foods chilled for hours when you need it. Simply arrange the ingredients directly on the block, drizzle on the dressing, and you’re good-to-go. Clean up is easy. Never use soap; salt is naturally antibacterial. Remove food residue with a damp cloth or sponge. Rinse it with a clean swipe, then dab dry. Allow the salt block to air-dry before next use. You’re done.

UNDERRATED SUMMERTIME SUPPER

Ingredients:

4 ounces goat’s milk cheese, plain

1 teaspoon Italian dry mix spice blend

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 ounces mixed greens, washed

1 Roma tomato, chopped

4 assorted mini sweet peppers, stems and seeds removed, sliced into rings

2 radishes, sliced very thin

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Crusty Artisan Bread

Instructions:

On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle Italian dry mix spice blend and red pepper flakes. Form the goat’s milk cheese into a ball. Roll it in the spice mix to cover all sides. Place cheese ball on the chilled Himalayan salt block. Next, arrange mixed greens in a single layer. Arrange Roma tomatoes, mini sweet peppers, radish slices, and red onion rings. Sprinkle Herbes de Provence over top. Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce over salad. Serve with crusty artisan bread.