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? After the Holidays: Snickerdoodle Chocolate Chip Cookies! When my 11-year old granddaughter came for a visit, one of the things we did together was bake homemade cookies. It was a wonderful way to build social skills for life, not to mention lasting memories. Conversation flowed easily while mixing cookie dough and then afterwards licking the bowl. Her technique for cracking an egg, without getting eggshells in the dough, was to hold it securely in the palm of her hand, above a custard cup…and squeeze. Don’t laugh. It worked. Surprisingly it takes a lot more uneven pressure to break it that way, but her reasoning was, “Nana, it’s easier than trying to get my thumbs in the opening and pulling it apart.” Priceless.
SNICKERDOODLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
16.5-ounce box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine yellow cake mix, vegetable oil, and eggs. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Fold in chocolate chips. Chill dough 20 minutes. Whisk together sugar and ground cinnamon in a shallow dish. Set aside. Scoop teaspoon-sized balls of cookie dough; roll in cinnamon sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet 2 minutes longer. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough. Store in an airtight container.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Tzatziki Ranch Chip Dip! When you shop the produce department of the grocery store, pay close attention to the different kinds of cucumbers. The fancy ones, wrapped in plastic wrap, are known as English cucumbers. There’s a reason for their madness. The skin is extremely thin and tender. The plastic wrap actually serves a purpose of protection against bruising, punctures, and dehydration. Hmmm. The seeds are much smaller, too. Because the skin is thinner and tender, there is no need to peel the tubular vegetable before proceeding with the recipe. I think you’ll be impressed. The English cucumber is less bitter, making it almost sweet and wonderful for transforming into a fabulous party dip. Be kind to others. No double-dipping.
TZATZIKI RANCH CHIP DIP
1 English cucumber, seeded, coarsely grated, and squeezed dry
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 envelope ranch seasoning mix
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons light cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh dill, for garnish
In a bowl, combine grated cucumber, kosher salt, mayonnaise, ranch seasoning mix, Greek yogurt, and light cream. Stir well. Cover and chill one hour, or until ready to serve. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Serve with crinkle-cut potato chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Guacamole Deviled Eggs! Tired of the same old thing? For years deviled eggs were served two ways: with real mayonnaise or without. Oh, sometimes you might’ve sprinkled a little paprika on top or added an olive slice. But not without criticism from the loudmouth brother-in-law who made sure everyone thought he was the know-it-all on every subject. I see you nodding your head. But now things are different. We have the freedom to be as creative in our cooking as we do in our lifestyle. If you are an avocado-lover, and could devour an entire bowl of guacamole in one sitting, then bookmark this recipe for now and for later. It’s worth it.
GUACAMOLE DEVILED EGGS
6 large eggs, hard-boiled
1 ripe avocado, cut in half, put removed
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Crushed tortilla chips, for garnish
Peel the eggs; cut in half horizontally; remove yolks. Set aside. Scoop the flesh of the avocado into a bowl. Add lime juice, sea salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Mash together with a fork. Add crumbled egg yolks and mayonnaise. Mix until smooth. Scoop a spoonful of the avocado filling into the well of each hard-boiled egg white. Top with fresh cilantro. Garnish with crushed tortilla chips. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Sour Cream ‘n Onion Deviled Eggs! Every once in awhile I crave something a little bit salty. To satisfy that urge, I whip up a batch of egg salad to scoop with potato chips or crackers. It’s pretty tasty, too. But what happens if all you have on hand are the crumbs at the bottom of the potato chip bag, hmmm? I’ve got an idea. Go one step further and make deviled eggs. By adding crumbled onion straws to the filling, it adds zing. Then sprinkle the potato chip crumbs on top for a salty finish. It works.
SOUR CREAM ‘N ONION DEVILED EGGS
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons ranch salad dressing
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 tablespoons onion straw pieces
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
2 tablespoons sour cream and onion potato chips, crushed
Fresh chives, for garnish
Slice eggs in half horizontally and carefully transfer yolks to a bowl. Place the empty whites on a platter. Mix ranch salad dressing, mayonnaise, and sour cream with the egg yolks. Stir until smooth. Fold in onion straw pieces and chopped chives. Fill the egg whites. Garnish with crushed sour cream and onion potato chips sprinkled with fresh chives.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Hot Sauce Tex-Mex Dip! Nothing screams “party” like a flavorful Mexican dip loaded with cheese, beans, chorizo, and chips. This do-ahead recipe is perfect for advance planners. Pull it all together and refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready, simply allow it to stand at room temperature half an hour before you need to bake it. Add 10 minutes to the time it is covered in the oven for melting the ooey gooey cheese. If you’re going to make this Tex-Mex Dip, may as well get lost in the tug-of-war between chili lime seasoning and garlicky hot sauce. It’s everything you love. Just add cocktails.
HOT SAUCE TEX-MEX DIP
4-ounces cream cheese, room temperature
15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained, and divided
3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice, divided
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup chorizo, cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix
4 ounces Mexican Cheese Blend, shredded and divided
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons pickled jalapeño, diced
Preheat oven to 375°. In a food processor, combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup black-eyed peas, 1 teaspoon lime juice, hot sauce, and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Pulse until smooth and creamy. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir remaining black-eyed peas, chorizo, scallions, red pepper, taco seasoning mix, and 1/2 cup Mexican Cheese Blend into the cream cheese mixture. Mix thoroughly. Spread into the bottom of a lightly greased deep dish pie plate. Sprinkle with remaining Mexican Cheese Blend. Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil, and bake 15 minutes longer until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir together in a bowl chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro, olive oil, diced jalapeño, remaining lime juice, and remaining sea salt. Using a slotted spoon, top dip with tomato mixture. Serve warm with tortilla chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: X-Tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer! Ever since I visited a popular Las Vegas restaurant, I’ve been looking for a cheese appetizer like this one. It’s not the traditional gooey soupy cheese dip you swipe tortilla chips through before gobbling down. The waiter set the iron skillet in front of us and said, “This is a cheese you need to use a knife and fork with. It’s not going to jump onto the chip.” Come to find out it was flambéed over an open fire in the kitchen. Wow! And they used tequila to ignite it. I wish I could tell you that’s what I did here, but sorry, “no comprendo”. Instead I baked it at a high temperature and dredged it through a spicy honey. Show compassion. I tried.
X-TRA CHEESE, PLEASE, APPETIZER
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon garlic habanero sauce
2 tablespoons ranch dressing
Chives, for garnish
Preheat oven to 475°. Using a 10” iron skillet, warm butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and kosher salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until onions are soft and golden brown. Add Monterey Jack cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Mix thoroughly with onions. To make the spicy honey, in a microwave-safe dish combine raw Tupelo honey, sriracha, and garlic habanero sauce. Stir well. Microwave on High for 30 seconds. Stir again. Set aside. Transfer cheese-filled iron skillet to the oven. Bake 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Turn oven setting to High on Broil. Allow dark spots to appear on the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully as this happens very quickly. Remove skillet from oven. Drizzle with spicy honey and ranch dressing. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with tortilla chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Turkey Burrito Bowl! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times…freeze leftover meat for another day. I’m still working on that 22-pound turkey I baked some time ago. You’d certainly never know it by the variety of meals we’ve eaten. Soups, sliders, hash, and the daily special are among the numerous ways we reduce food waste while saving money. By adding fresh produce and grains, using leftover turkey simply becomes a brilliant time saving option. You probably utilize leftovers yourself without even giving it a second thought. I’m thinking stir-fry, casseroles, omelets, and basic sammies. See how easy it is? Just don’t tell the kids.
TURKEY BURRITO BOWL
2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
Sides: Avocado, lettuce, red onion, tomato, rice, yogurt, and tortilla corn chips
Cilantro, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine shredded turkey, garlic powder, kosher salt, orange juice, vinegar, and butter. Transfer to an ovenproof covered dish. Bake 30 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. If necessary, remove lid after 30 minutes to allow the juices to breathe. Serve seasoned turkey with instant rice, tortilla chips, and fresh produce.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Kumquat Cilantro Salsa! For those of you who love the taste of oranges, but hate the idea of peeling the skin, let me introduce you its distant cousin. The Kumquat; native to Southeast Asia. It’s about the size of an olive and can be either round or oblong. But here’s the best part: you can eat the outer skin. No peeling required. The kumquat has a sugary sweet citrus flavor that makes your taste buds boomerang between sour and tangy. Please note, there are tiny seeds, much like those in a grape, so you can either eat them or remove them.
KUMQUAT CILANTRO SALSA
1 pound kumquats, washed and sliced with seeds removed
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/2 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
Tortilla Corn Chips
Make sure the skin of the kumquat is blemish-free and not dimpled. Discard if necessary. In a bowl, combine sliced kumquats, diced tomato, sweet onion slices, and chopped cilantro. Gently toss. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and sea salt. Drizzle over kumquat mixture. Refrigerate for one hour. Serve with tortilla corn chips.