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.

Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes! If you’re a “regular” customer at the same restaurant, it’s perfectly natural to become good friends with the owners and staff. Kind of like an extended family. You learn their personalities as they become accustomed to your quirks, humor, and mannerisms. Before long, you may even exchange cell numbers so you can text the restaurant when you’re on your way. It benefits both parties. In turn, if I’m kinda crazy about a certain dish, I may get a nonchalant “secret” ingredient hint dropped my way. The rest is up to me. Now I don’t claim to make menu items as well as a restaurant, but in a pinch it satisfies a craving that will suffice until I return.

ZESTED LEMON BLUEBERRY PANCAKES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon granulated lemon peel

1 cup cottage cheese, small curd

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 pint blueberries

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

10-ounce jar lemon curd, to taste

Powdered sugar, garnish

Instructions:

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, mix agave nectar, lemon zest, and granulated lemon peel. Add cottage cheese, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Whisk until almost smooth. The cottage cheese will continue to have small lumps. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Stir to combine. The batter will be a little bit lumpy. Fold in a few blueberries, about 1/4 cup. Warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Brush the skillet with vegetable oil. Add a 1/4 cup of pancake batter to the skillet. Cook for a couple minutes until small bubbles appear. Carefully flip and cook the remaining side until golden, about 2 minutes longer. Brush the skillet with more vegetable oil and repeat the process until all the batter is gone. Serve the pancakes with remaining fresh blueberries and a dollop of lemon curd. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Volcano Cheese Fries

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Volcano Cheese Fries! Say, Whaaat? I first had these tasty morsels at my fav fish hut in Kauai. But after returning home, I really had a craving for them again. Granted, being a Midwesterner, I simply couldn’t resist adding a glob of queso cheese on top. In my defense, the bonfires we have always mix the colors of fiery red and golden yellow. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. But if you have the willpower, I won’t be offended if you skip it. The furikake seasoning and sriracha sauce are the star attractions anyway.

VOLCANO CHEESE FRIES

Ingredients:

16 ounces shoestring fries, frozen

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

1/3 cup Queso cheese dip, warmed

1 tablespoon furikake seasoning

Instructions:

Bake French fried potatoes according to package directions. Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt. Toss gently. Transfer to a large bowl so the fries can be piled into a volcano mound. Drizzle sriracha sauce over the top, to taste. Add the warmed Queso cheese dip. Sprinkle with furikake seasoning. Serve immediately.

Jalapeño Celery Crack

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Jalapeño Celery Crack! I’m not ashamed to say I’ve found a new addiction. Hence the name. By the time I wrote this post, I had already made this recipe 3 times and shared it once with a close friend. Jalapeño Celery Crack has a spicy creaminess that screams, “just one more bite”. When I ran out of celery, I discovered it tastes amazing on tortilla corn chips. Sometimes you need an appetizer. Sometimes you want a snack. And sometimes making it part of a meal is justification enough. Perhaps you should try it. You know you want some.

JALAPEÑO CELERY CRACK

Ingredients:

1 bunch of celery, cut into 4” pieces

8-ounce cream cheese, room temperature

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon dill

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon parsley

2/3 cup pickled jalapeños, chopped

1 tablespoon pickled jalapeño juice

2 strips of applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled

Instructions:

Cut celery into 4” pieces. Set aside.

Combine softened cream cheese and mayonnaise in a medium bowl. Mix until smooth. Add sea salt, dill, onion powder, garlic powder, and parsley. Mix thoroughly. Add chopped jalapeños, pickled jalapeño juice, and crumbled bacon. Stir well to blend. Refrigerate one hour. Arrange celery stalks on a platter. Fill with jalapeño mixture. Garnish with extra dill. Serve.

Iceberg Lettuce Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Iceberg Lettuce Salad! Generally speaking, we all become pretty accustomed to grocery prices in our home town. We know, when it comes to produce, we can expect to pay a little more for berries than bananas. Just like the many varieties of leafy greens. Typically, spinach, kale, and romaine are always way more than iceberg lettuce. Right? So recently while visiting Kauai, knowing that a lot of food is imported, I made the decision to make some compromises. I picked up a head of iceberg lettuce listed at $3.99. In the States it’s around $1.49 a head. Okay. When I checked out, the register rung up $6.00. Imagine the sticker shock. Come to find out, the sign actually said iceberg lettuce was $3.99 a pound. Let me tell you, I stretched that head of lettuce over many meals and savored every bite.

ICEBERG LETTUCE SALAD

Ingredients:

3 leaves of lettuce, gently torn

1 Roma tomato, chopped

1 green onion, snipped

2 tablespoons Caesar dressing, prepared

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon oregano

Instructions:

Divide the gently torn lettuce leaves between two salad plates. Arrange chopped tomatoes over lettuce. Using a kitchen shears, snip the green onion pieces over top. Drizzle with salad dressing. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and oregano. Serve chilled.

Fajita Tortilla Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Fajita Tortilla Soup! Last summer when my garden was at its peak, I spent what felt like hours preparing veggies for the freezer. Among them were poblano, bell, and jalapeño peppers. Poblanos were cut into strips, bell peppers were chopped, and jalapeño peppers were sliced. It turns out, they are ideal for using in stir fry, cooked, or baked recipes. By storing the peppers in ziplock bags, I can take out what I need and reseal the rest for later. I also roasted a turkey and froze the surplus in manageable portions, which kept us from getting tired of eating it several days in a row. Now I get to reap the rewards.

FAJITA TORTILLA SOUP

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 poblano peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into strips

1 green bell pepper, chopped with stem and seeds removed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

32 ounces chicken broth

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

2 cups shredded turkey, precooked

14-ounce can black beans, drained

14-ounce can refried beans (optional)

2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Tortilla chips

Jalapeño peppers, sliced

Instructions:

In a deep large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Sauté yellow onion slices, poblano pepper slices, green peppers, and minced garlic. After five minutes, sprinkle oregano and red pepper flakes over all. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, shredded turkey, and black beans. Stir well to combine ingredients. Lower heat, cover, and simmer soup for 20 minutes. For a thicker consistency, gradually stir in refried beans. You may not need an entire can. If the soup becomes too thick, add a little water. Continue warming soup until heated through. Top with Monterey Jack shredded cheese. Place the lid over the pan to melt the cheese. Spoon into bowls. Serve immediately with tortilla chips and sliced jalapeño peppers.

Grass-Fed Beef Tostadas

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Grass-Fed Beef Tostadas! If you like the taste of corn tacos, the tostada is a distant cousin. Basically, one is folded, the other is flat. Brushed with oil, then “toasted” crisp, the tostada is made to hold the toppings. This recipe allows you to bend the tortilla if you prefer to eat it that way. Whatever falls onto the plate can be scooped back up into your mouth. No judgment here. Now, about grass-fed beef. It’s going to cost a little more per pound due to the lack of fat content, compounded by the extra time it takes to fatten the cow. Grain makes cows get fat faster, just like it does for humans. I like grass-fed because it is more nutritious with heart-healthy omega 3s plus vitamins. It’s all about the choices we make.

GRASS-FED BEEF TOSTADAS

Ingredients:

1 pound grass-fed ground beef

1 packet fajita seasoning dry mix

1/3 cup canola oil

8 corn tortillas

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, gently torn

1-2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 red onion, sliced thin

8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Fresh cilantro, leaves only

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. Because grass-fed beef has a lower fat content, steaming it is a good option. In a medium skillet, cover the bottom with water. Crumble the ground beef into the water. Set the stovetop temperature to medium-high. Break up any large clumps. Allow the water to boil. Stir the meat to cook evenly. Turn often. When the meat is brown, it is done. Drain the cooked ground beef using a strainer. Dispose of water and grease. Return ground beef to the pan. Sprinkle with fajita seasoning mix. Stir well to coat. Have the burner on lowest setting to keep warm. Spray a shallow skillet with nonstick oil. Set heat to medium-high. Brush one side of corn tortilla with canola oil. Place oiled side down in skillet. Brush the remaining side with canola oil. Fry the shell until golden for 30 seconds to a minute per side. This makes the shell fairly stiff. If the pan begins to smoke, lower the heat setting slightly. Remove the tortilla and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Keep tortillas warm in the oven. Repeat process with remaining tortillas. To assemble, begin with a fried tortilla. Layer with iceberg lettuce, seasoned ground beef, chopped tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese, and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately with guacamole and salsa.

Everything Turkey Sliders

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Everything Turkey Sliders! These miniature sandwiches are anything but small, when it comes to flavor. In a world of “supersize” portions, having something more manageable is always a good thing. It’s like when my husband and I eat out at a restaurant. We split a portion and then if we’re still hungry, we can order something else. More often than not, we are completely full and satisfied with smaller portions. It works for us. These sliders follow the same concept. Eat one and if you’re still hungry, have another. Permission granted.

EVERYTHING TURKEY SLIDERS

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon natural honey

1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons poppyseeds

1 teaspoon dried minced onion

6 slider rolls, split

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 cups shredded turkey, precooked

6 slices Havarti cheese

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine melted butter, Dijon mustard, natural honey, Worcestershire sauce, poppyseeds, and minced onion in a small bowl. Whisk until mixed. Set aside. In a 6”x10” baking dish, place the bottom halves of the slider buns in a single layer, sides touching. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over them. Divide the shredded turkey between the buns. Place one slice of Havarti cheese over the shredded turkey. Carefully place the bun lids on top of each slider. Pour the glaze evenly over the top of the sliders. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the buns are toasted. Remove from oven. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

BBQ Pork Nachos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: BBQ Pork Nachos! Mealtime can be hectic for this reason or that. I admit, some days I am not in the mood for a lavish meal. Perhaps you feel the same way and need a shortcut now and then. That’s when I go to the freezer to pull out fully cooked products, like smoked barbecue pork. When buying, always check the ingredient list for additives. From my experience, it’s the sauce that makes the dish.

BBQ PORK NACHOS

Ingredients:

11-ounce bag tortilla corn chips

1 pound container bbq pork, fully cooked

1/2 cup Queso cheese dip, store-bought

1 tomato, chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 sprigs cilantro, leaves removed

1 bottle Heinz Hawaii sweet and fruity bbq sauce, to taste*

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Places tortilla chips in a single layer on the baking sheet. Randomly drop bbq pork onto chips using a fork. Next spoon prepared queso dip around the pork. It will melt as it bakes. Scatter chopped tomatoes over all. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, to taste. Bake nachos for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Drizzle barbecue sauce over top. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.