Dining Outside the Home: Mexi-Wing Restaurant in Athens, Tennessee! When you’re passing through town and the parking lot of an authentic Mexican grill is lined with vehicles, it’s usually a good sign. As we slid into a cozy booth, a basket of freshly-baked tortilla chips, accompanied by a carafe of chunky salsa, was dropped off at our table. A few minutes later, two margaritas on-the-rocks were going down easy. If you’ve never tried a sugar-rimmed lime margarita, you should. It’s amazing. The extensive menu boasted the biggest and best hot wings around, hence the name. House Specials and Combination platters were too numerous to count. It was beginning to look as though deciding what to eat was going to be tough. In a situation like this, try something a little different. Ubaldo, the waiter, was very helpful. He explained things like tostaquac, molcajete, and carne asada. For incredible Mexican food with an unforgettable name, bookmark Mexi-Wing Restaurant.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Overstuffed Pineapple Boat! If you’re looking for the WOW-factor for the next social gathering, bookmark this recipe for a standing ovation. It’s that good! Not only does it satisfy the meat and seafood lover in all of us, it also has “healthy” written all over it. You gotta admit, the pineapple presentation is a show-stopper. And the best part is, with a little planning, anyone can pull it off.
OVERSTUFFED PINEAPPLE BOAT
1 whole ripe pineapple
1 pound frozen cooked shrimp; thawed, tails removed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay Style seafood seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dill
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup butter
1 cup instant rice, brown or white
1 1/2 cups fine home style noodles
10-ounce can chunk chicken breast, drained
14-ounce chicken broth
4 green onions, chopped
8-ounce can of slivered water chestnuts, drained
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup soybean seasoning sauce
Cut pineapple lengthwise; cut around the inside, following the edge to create a “boat”. Do not pierce the underside. Cut the pineapple flesh into chunks. Scoop out and place in a bowl. Set pineapple aside. In a deep skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add seafood seasoning, dill, and lime juice. Cook 1-2 minutes, turning once. Remove sautéed shrimp and place on paper towel-lined plate. Melt butter in the same skillet. Do not burn. Add white rice and thin noodles. Coat well. Cook them over medium heat 3-5 minutes, turning often until golden brown. Stir in chicken broth and chicken chunks. Cover. Simmer 15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Add chopped green onion with tops, water chestnuts, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and soybean seasoning sauce. Mix well. Gently fold in sautéed shrimp and pineapple chunks, to taste. Refrigerate leftover pineapple in a covered container. Fill pineapple boats. Serve on platters. Garnish with cilantro leaf.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Jumping Chicken Noodle Bowl! I love it when I can go to the kitchen and use ingredients I already have on hand. The “make ahead” Vietnamese Dipping Sauce* (nuoc cham) is a multi-purpose staple that livens up Asian cuisine nicely. By making supper a noodle bowl with prepackaged veggies and spicy chicken, the blend of flavors quickly satisfy hunger pangs while providing comfort at the same time.
JUMPING CHICKEN NOODLE BOWL
8 ounces boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup soybean sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bunch broccoli florets, cooked and drained
1 cup blend of shredded cabbage and carrots
1 green onion, chopped
1/3 cup cashew pieces
1 cup Vietnamese Dipping Sauce*
Heat a skillet over medium temperature. Add olive oil and chicken strips, single layer. Cook 3 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through. Reduce heat to low. Add soybean sauce and red pepper flakes. Cook 10 minutes longer until meat is tender and liquid is absorbed. Arrange chicken strips, rice noodles, broccoli florets, and cabbage-carrot blend in a shallow bowl. Top with chopped green onions and cashew pieces. Cover with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce*, to taste. Serve immediately.
*Make your own Vietnamese Dipping Sauce by clicking on the following link.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Sunshine Eats: Cobb Salad! Some days the dinner option is as plain as the nose on my face. Leftover rotisserie chicken becomes the star attraction. Using seven of your favorite ingredients, which you probably already have on hand, this time-saving classic is the perfect solution to that mundane question, “What’s for dinner?” Go easy on yourself and build a Cobb Salad on a platter for show-stopping presentation.
Bag of Spring Mix Salad Greens
3 cups chicken, precooked and shredded
3 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
6 slices bacon, crispy and crumbled
1-2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup Bleu cheese crumbles
Salad Dressings of choice
Choose individual salad plates or a serving platter. Arrange salad greens as the base. Working from the left side of the plate to the right, arrange shredded chicken from top to bottom. Next arrange chopped egg, crumbled bacon, diced avocado, and tomato halves, ending with Bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle with salad dressing of choice and serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Boursin Garlic Bisque! Have you been to a restaurant where the main course is served with a side of garlic smashed potatoes? The texture is incredibly smooth and the flavor is bursting with fresh herbs and garlic. Gourmet Boursin cheese may be their secret ingredient. Its airy-light texture is a marriage between spreadable cream cheese and whipped butterfat. You can find this French icon wrapped in foil in the cheese department of your favorite grocery store. Serve it with crackers, pita chips, or go all out and make this simple potato bisque.
BOURSIN GARLIC BISQUE
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups Yukon potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup sweet onions, chopped
3/4 cup light cream
5.3 ounce Garlic Boursin Cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
5 slices crisp bacon, pieces and crumbles
Fresh Garlic Chives
Ground Smoked Almonds
Combine chicken broth and chopped potatoes in a 2-quart pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, sauté garlic clove and sweet onions in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add to potato mixture. After potatoes are tender, partially smash the potatoes to thicken, leaving some potato chunks for texture. Add light cream and Boursin cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add baby peas and bacon pieces. Simmer 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with bacon crumbles, garlic chives, and smoked almonds.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Wild Rice Sausage Stuffing! For those who really crave the taste of stuffing, here’s an idea for a meal-in-one-dish. Some people may call it a “casserole” since it contains crumbled pork sausage, mixed vegetables, bread stuffing, and wild rice grains. Either way, you’re going to want to bookmark and print this recipe. It’s that good. Of course, you can make the serving portions a little smaller and serve it as a side dish with roasted chicken, turkey, or a Cornish hen like I did. Wild Rice Sausage Stuffing can easily be made a day ahead of time and gently reheated when you need it. Leftovers can be frozen up to three months. I believe I just saw your face light up. Trust me, your family will thank you. They may even offer to load the dishwasher.
WILD RICE SAUSAGE STUFFING
6-ounce package long grain and wild rice mix
1 pound bulk sausage
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
4-ounce can mushrooms, stems and pieces, drained
6-ounce package chicken stuffing cubes
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9”x13” baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook wild rice according to package directions. Set aside. Brown sausage until cooked and crumbled; drain. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm butter. Sauté onion and celery pieces until tender, 4-5 minutes. Do not burn. In a large bowl, combine wild rice, sausage crumbles, sautéed onions/celery mixture, and mushrooms. Stir well. Fold in chicken stuffing cubes. Add beaten eggs, chicken broth, seasoned pepper and poultry seasoning. Stir thoroughly. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Bake 45 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160°. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Artichoke Chicken Flatbread! Marinated artichoke hearts are a luxury worth savoring. Let me repeat myself: Marinated artichoke hearts are a luxury worth savoring. Now that I’ve said it twice, tuck those words into your memory banks. The next time you go shopping for groceries, grab a jar off the shelf. Don’t worry, it won’t go to waste. For some reason, artichokes taste like a summer day, standing barefoot under a canopy of shade trees overlooking a babbling brook. Invigorating. Vivacious. And stimulating. Think about all the ways you can serve artichoke hearts: in dips, as appetizers, on charcuterie boards, roasted with veggies, or straight out of the jar. Just wait until you try them on flatbread.
ARTICHOKE CHICKEN FLATBREAD
1 prepared flatbread
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/3 cup prepared ranch dressing
1 1/2 cup Italian cheeses, shredded
1/2 cup grilled chicken strips, precooked and cut into chunks
1/3 cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
2 tablespoons red pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons sweet onion, chopped
Fresh oregano leaves, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°. Brush olive oil on the bottom of the flatbread. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake on a pizza stone for 5 minutes. Spread ranch dressing over top of flatbread. Sprinkle with one cup of shredded Italian cheeses. Arrange grilled chicken chunks, marinated artichoke hearts, red peppers, green peppers, and sweet onions over all. Add remaining cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and deeply golden around the edges. Garnish with fresh oregano before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Queso Chicken Flautas! Are you as torn between corn tortillas and flour tortillas as I am? There are days, and certain dishes, where nothing but corn will do: tamales, taquitos, enchiladas, tacos, and chips. Corn tortillas, generally, are much smaller and easier to hold. When they are soaked in sauce, they are more pliable and suitable for baking. If you like the taste of toasted corn as well as the chewy texture, corn tortillas are for you. The same applies to flour tortillas: quesadillas, flautas, fajitas, chimichangas, and burritos. Flour tortillas are bigger, not to mention softer for folding. You already know this if you’ve ever eaten a monster burrito or ginormous chimichanga. One is baked, the latter is fried. Today’s recipe features the sturdiness of a flour tortilla to hold the juicy chicken and melted cheese filling without turning soggy or falling apart. What a delicious dilemma.
QUESO CHICKEN FLAUTAS
Ingredients for Herbed Sour Cream:
8 ounces sour cream
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1 cup Mexican cheese blend, shredded
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4.5 ounce can green chiles, drained and diced
1 envelope taco seasoning mix, less 1 tablespoon for remaining recipe
12-count flour tortillas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
15-ounce jar queso cheese dip, warmed
To make the herbed sour cream, combine sour cream, honey, lime juice, and sea salt in a bowl. Stir until smooth. Gently fold in chopped cilantro leaves and green onions. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. In a medium bowl, combine shredded chicken, Mexican cheese blend, cream cheese, and diced green chilies. Sprinkle with taco seasoning mix (less 1 tablespoon of mix). Stir thoroughly. Set aside. In a small dish, whisk vegetable oil with reserved taco seasoning mix. Set aside. Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. To assemble flautas, place 1/4 cup chicken mixture on bottom third of each flour tortilla. Roll up tightly, leaving ends open. Place seam-side down on prepared baking sheet. Brush filled chicken flautas with seasoned oil mixture. Repeat until all tortillas are filled. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until flautas are crispy. Serve with warmed queso cheese dip, herbed sour cream, and chunky salsa.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Unforgettable Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder! For American hunter-gatherers, as well as European foragers of gourmet plants, wild ramps are as coveted as the elusive morel mushrooms. Since the leafy garlic bulbs are popular with curiosity seekers, in addition to critters of the woods, the quest for a fragrant “bouquet” becomes a challenge between man and beast. Who will get there first to reap the wild-growing delicacy? Perhaps both have their secret stomping grounds. I invite you to stick around awhile to sample the wide variety of ways to enjoy wild ramps.
UNFORGETTABLE WILD RAMP BACON CHOWDER
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1/2 cup ramps roughly chopped, bulbs and greens
1 potato, skin on and diced
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Crumbled bacon, for garnish
Charred ramp greens, for garnish
In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté ramps in bacon drippings until soft. Add diced potatoes, chicken broth, seasoned salt, and garlic and herb seasoning. Simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked thoroughly. Reduce heat to low. Add coconut milk, cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, but do not boil. Gently heat for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes to thicken. Ladle into soup bowls; garnish with crumbled bacon and charred ramp greens.