Yellow Cheddar Potato Rounds

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Yellow Cheddar Potato Rounds! Who likes potatoes? I do, I do. Buy a bag of potatoes and you’ll never go hungry, I always say. The versatile potato is a chef’s marvel. It can be baked, fried, mashed, hashed, creamed into soups, stirred into casseroles, and even eaten raw. Add a sharper-flavored cheese and you can reach a perfect combination that will make a strong soul swoon. This is why we cook at home, we remind ourselves. It’s simply rich and made fresh. Enjoy, my peeps.

YELLOW CHEDDAR POTATO ROUNDS

Ingredients:

1/2 pound russet potatoes, skin on, washed, and sliced 1/2” thick

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon rosemary leaves

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

3 chives, snipped

Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss sliced potatoes with melted butter. Coat well. Arrange buttered potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic and herb seasoning, sea salt, and rosemary leaves. Bake potatoes 20 minutes; flip and bake 10 minutes longer. Top potato rounds with shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon. Bake 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with fresh chives and rosemary sprigs.

Xanadu Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Xanadu Pasta Salad! At first glance, this may appear as a five-minute throw-together meal. Think again. In actuality, the magic begins once half the ingredients are combined and tucked away in the refrigerator for a couple days to marinate. At this point, the pasta actually transforms into a gourmet dish you are likely to have tasted at a family-owned sandwich shoppe or small town deli. One forkful may leave you wondering if this is all a dream. Is that music I hear in the background? Xanadu. Quickly, store those thoughts in your memory bank. I have no doubt you’ll return there for more.

XANADU PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces vermicelli spaghetti pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 pint red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

8 ounces small mozzarella balls, halved

1 teaspoon crushed oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Combine cooked pasta, kosher salt, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour mixture into a gallon ziplock bag. Refrigerate for two days, turning a couple times to marinate flavors. Then pour seasoned pasta into a large bowl. Spoon in red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Add small mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Gently toss. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

Turkey Taquitos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Turkey Taquitos! Small rolled-up tortillas that are filled with seasoned meat, shredded cheese, and Mexican spices might be the best alternative to a taco or a burrito. In lieu of deep frying, crispy crunchy results can happen in the oven. The smaller size tortilla makes the turkey taquito easy to hold and handy for dipping into red or green salsa. Some foodies make a meal out of these little corn tacos, while others find them perfect as a party snack. Better make a batch for yourself before you decide.

TURKEY TAQUITOS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup salsa

3 cups turkey, precooked and shredded

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix

1/2 teaspoon oregano, crushed

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

12 corn tortillas

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, and ranch dressing, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Pour salsa into a strainer. Allow juices to drip away. In a large bowl, combine shredded turkey, cheddar cheese, taco seasoning mix, crushed oregano, cumin powder, and garlic powder. Mix well. Warm vegetable oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Dip each tortilla into the oil and place on a plate. This makes the shell pliable. Reduce heat to low. Place 2 tablespoons filling on each tortilla. Roll tightly. Place in the iron skillet to “seal” for a few seconds. Then transfer taquito to a baking sheet, with seam facing down. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until crisp. Garnish with chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, and fresh cilantro. Drizzle with ranch dressing. Serve warm.

Risotto Tomato Basil

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Risotto Tomato Basil! When the rice cooker is on the fritz, and you’re still craving risotto, try the next best thing. There’s no shame in using a boxed version as a foundation for a meal in-a-bowl. After all, these tried and true products are on the shelf for a reason. Most have perfected the art of imitation to the point where one might ask which is better. True, the homemade version does involve a certain finesse for stirring at a crucial time, exerting more energy than otherwise, but who’s the wiser? In the end, let your stomach be the judge.

RISOTTO TOMATO BASIL

Ingredients:

5.5 ounce box Garlic Primavera Risotto, gluten-free

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 teaspoon oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, sauté rice in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add water and contents of seasoning packet. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Stir in grated parmesan cheese. Transfer to bowls. Arrange cut tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Neufchâtel Nibblets

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: 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.

Meatball Pizzetta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Meatball Pizzetta! Need a late-night snack beyond a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream? Don’t get me wrong, there was a time in my life when I self-medicated with a pint of Turkish Coffee Ice Cream, at least 3 or 4 times a week. No regrets and certainly no judgment here. What I recently discovered, though, is a mini portion of authentic flatbread, packaged in a 4-count. Just the right size to become a pizzetta for one. I always seem to have a jar of homemade Italian marinara in my fridge. And mozzarella cheese? Well, that’s practically a staple around my house as well. Do you see the wheels turning? This is how my kitchen is stocked. Because you never know when a craving will hit.

MEATBALL PIZZETTA

Ingredients:

I mini naan flatbread

2-3 tablespoons marinara sauce, prepared

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

3-5 small frozen Italian meatballs, thawed

1 tablespoon pickled red onions

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the rack while the oven is warming. Take a mini naan flatbread and place it on a plate. Spread a layer of marinara, stopping short of the edges. Layer naan with shredded mozzarella cheese. Arrange Italian meatballs on top. Transfer pizzetta to a preheated pizza stone. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese melts and crust is crunchy. Carefully remove from oven, add pickled red onions, and slice pizzetta. Garnish with fresh basil.

Flaky Strawberry Turnovers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Flaky Strawberry Turnovers! Let the experts do what they do best, I always say. That’s the reason I begin with a prepared puff pastry easily found in the freezer section of the grocery store. The flaky light dough is filled with yummy butter and then repeatedly folded and rolled before baking. For you, my peeps, it simply involves thawing at room temperature for about 45 minutes. Pure genius, if you ask me, making the rest of the recipe is a walk in the park.

FLAKY STRAWBERRY TURNOVERS

Ingredients:

1 sheet puff pastry, prepared

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup strawberries, chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1 egg white, beaten

For the glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Unroll thawed puff pastry. Cut into four squares. Set aside. In a bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar and almond extract. Mix well. In another bowl, combine chopped strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch. Gently toss until coated. Spread the cream cheese onto the squares of dough, keeping it towards one corner, forming a diagonal. Spoon strawberries over cream cheese. Gently fold the corner over the mixture. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal. Brush each turnover with beaten egg white. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar, milk, and almond extract. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over strawberry turnovers.

Egg Noodle Chicken Casserole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Egg Noodle Chicken Casserole! Do you ever become territorial with your food, perhaps hiding it in secret places no one ever looks? I do. In fact I keep a very unique bag of Iowa potato chips in the freezer to nibble on whenever I get the urge. Yes, you can freeze potato chips, but that’s another story. Comfort food also means having your very own individual crock in order to savor every bite, like today’s version of chicken casserole. It especially means the buttery cracker topping is all yours, to save until the very end or to mix into every bite. The choice is yours.

EGG NOODLE CHICKEN CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

1 cup egg noodles

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 cup frozen grilled chicken chunks, fully cooked and thawed

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

For the topping:

1/2 cup Ritz* crackers, crushed

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease two individual casserole dishes with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside. In a skillet over medium-high heat, warm butter. Add diced onion and celery. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine egg noodles, onions, celery, chicken chunks, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, and chopped parsley. Mix well. Divide between the two prepared casserole dishes. In a small bowl, stir together cracker crumbs, melted butter, and cheddar cheese. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the casseroles. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Let rest 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Umami Bomb Chorizo Grits

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Umami Bomb Chorizo Grits! Say whaaat? Somebody needs to tell me what that word means. Umami. Evidently it is the taste bud beyond the famous four: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Oh yeah, taste buds we’ve been familiar with since we first began to put food in our mouths. This “umami” envelopes earthy, meaty, and savory. Examples of foods that reflect this are soy sauce, tomatoes, cheeses, anchovies, and cured pork products. Chorizo falls into the latter category, you probably concluded. Sooo, are we good?

UMAMI BOMB CHORIZO GRITS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup grits, uncooked

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 chorizo sausage links, casing removed

1 tablespoon red pepper, diced

1 tablespoon green pepper, diced

1 tablespoon red onion, sliced

1 tablespoon frozen corn, thawed

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, crumbled

1 hard-boiled egg

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Prepare grits according to package directions. Stir in cheddar cheese. Set aside. Remove the casing of the chorizo. Spray a skillet with nonstick oil. Add chorizo. Sauté over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Crumble the meat with a fork as it cooks. Add red pepper, green pepper, red onion, and corn. Continue cooking until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. To serve, transfer cheesy grits to a shallow dish. Add chorizo and sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve with a hard-boiled egg. Garnish with cayenne pepper, to taste.