Dining Outside the Home: Jalisco Restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee! Family-owned translates to heart and soul. In this quaint Mexican cantina, you’re going to be treated like a limb on the family tree. A basket of warm tortilla chips and chunky salsa greet you at the table. The salsa is fresh and light. Dredge a chip through the tomatoes, Serrano peppers, and oregano. Yep, it’s authentic stuff. Add a side of guacamole to balance out the flavor. Love tacos? For those who appreciate it, cilantro is the star attraction. Roasted meat, shredded into small pieces, and chopped red onions with a squeeze of lime create a masterpiece that will pull you back enough to slow down and savor every bite. This is Mexican culture at its best.
Dining Outside the Home: McNamara’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee! For authentic Gaelic food in homey surroundings, McNamara’s friendly atmosphere feels as though you stepped into a local pub in Ireland. Inhale the aromas of savory shepherds pie, tender corned beef, buttery cabbage, or crispy fish and chips. Popular draft beers, aged Irish whiskeys, and after-dinner libations move the meal along toward Happy Hour and live entertainment. Prepare yourself for a great time where everyone is treated like family.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: German Chocolate Brownies! Take a journey to the Land of Chocolate. It’s a place where milkshakes are thick and creamy and go down easy. You can nibble on chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, candy bars for lunch, and dark chocolate cake as a bedtime snack. No calories exist because chocolate is good for you! Wouldn’t that be lovely? It would be Paradise, in my opinion. Today’s recipe requires a little more self-control than that. You can do this!
GERMAN CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
Ingredients for Crust:
1 box devil’s food chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
Ingredients for Filling:
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9″x13″ pan with foil. Lightly spray with nonstick oil. Mix together chocolate cake mix, melted butter, and egg. Press into the bottom of the pan. Bake 7 minutes. Remove from oven. For the filling, combine sweetened condensed milk, almond extract, egg, pecans, and coconut. Mix well. Pour over chocolate crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Bake 25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Remove from oven; cool. Cut into brownie squares.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Deveined Shrimp Queso! As the nights turn cool, cozy up around the fire with warm appetizers that are sure to please. Save prep time by beginning with precooked shrimp. It takes all the worry out of wondering if the shrimp is cooked through. I find the convenience of having frozen shrimp on hand an advantage. You will, too.
DEVEINED SHRIMP QUESO
2 tablespoons lemon olive oil
1 pound jumbo shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup margarita mix, liquid
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Romano cheese, shaved
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, shrimp, seasoned salt, seafood seasoning, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Cook 5 minutes; turn and cook 2 minutes longer. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover shrimp with tequila and liquid margarita mixture. Add butter. Cook 5 minutes. Transfer shrimp to an ovenproof casserole dish. Arrange in single layer. Mix the cornstarch and water until smooth. Bring pan drippings to a boil. Gradually add cornstarch mixture. Stir constantly as sauce thickens. If necessary, add more water. Pour sauce over shrimp. Cover with Monterey Jack cheese, spreading evenly. Top with shaved Romano cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Garnish with fresh dill. Serve warm with tortilla chips or crostini.
Dining Outside the Home: Dos Caminos in Times Square, New York! Perhaps Cinco de Mayo isn’t the best time to try out an authentic Mexican restaurant. But then again, maybe it is. The vibrant cantina was hopping like a fiesta celebration. Shot glasses were slung back and refilled on demand. Traditional guacamole was served in natural molcajete stones with warm tortilla chips. The salsa trio was a bonus. Queso Fundido, piping hot in a black iron skillet, was spot on. Thick with melted cheese, poblano peppers, dark beer, and roasted tomatoes made it a meal. Keep the Cadillac Margaritas coming for an amazing culmination.
Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Mexican Café in Key West, Florida! When a restaurant boasts of an abundance of hatch chiles and fresh, local ingredients, you begin to wonder if Santa Fe style Tex-Mex might be a good choice for dinner. Anytime the weather is hot, and the drinks are cold, it draws a crowd on Duval Street for seafood favorites, like skewered shrimp marinated in lime juice and ginger. Take a swig of on-the-rocks margarita. The salted rim offsets the spicy salsa you can’t resist tasting now and then. If you’re in the neighborhood, take advantage of Happy Hour specials. There’s no rush here.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: White Chocolate Cranberry Spice Bars! Like snowdrops over a country field, the white chocolate bits add a sweet creaminess to the crumb bars offsetting the tart tangy taste of cranberry sauce. You may notice a warm sweet-heat every once in awhile. It’s the candied baby ginger infused throughout. I use all-natural crystallized ginger slices and chop them up for added zing. For the merriest of holidays, make a batch of these bite-sized guilty pleasures. Perfect for a cookie exchange.
WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY SPICE BARS
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups chunky cranberry sauce
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together sugar and butter. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add dry ingredients together. Spread 3/4 of batter into a 9″x13″ greased dish. Gently press down with a spoon to level. Divide cranberry sauce over top. Sprinkle white chocolate chips over cranberry mixture. Fill in with chopped crystallized ginger. Crumble remaining batter on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into squares or triangles. To make glaze, mix powdered sugar with milk, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over bars.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Uruguayan Chorizo Cheese Dip! Traveling exposes you to all kinds of different foods, especially nowadays. I can’t tell you how often we are hundreds of miles from home and end up running into someone who used to live down the road from us. It’s a small world, isn’t it? Striking up a conversation with strangers, who have become city residents, brings out the best places in local hot spots. After all, when asked, “What restaurants do you favor in your free time”, they begin rattling off a list of specialties worthy of remembering. At that point I’m making notes on my cell phone to further explore reviews and websites for our next meal. That’s what happened the day we ate at a fusion restaurant and discovered how tasty hot melted cheese can be. Pass it on.
URUGUAYAN CHORIZO CHEESE DIP
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 pound smoky provolone cheese, sliced
1/4 pound montamoré cheese, crumbled
1/4 pound parmesan cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chorizo, cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeño slices
Preheat oven to 400°. Place an iron skillet, rubbed with vegetable oil, into the oven while it is preheating. Carefully remove it after 4-5 minutes, or when the buzzer indicates the oven has reached that temperature. Layer the sliced provolone cheese in the bottom of the skillet. Be sure to cover the bottom completely. Next, cover the provolone with crumbled montamoré cheese. Finally, top with grated parmesan cheese. Sprinkle dried oregano, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes over all. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are crispy and the cheese is melted. The bottom of the cheese dip will be slightly seared. Remove from the oven and garnish with warmed chorizo and jalapeño slices. Serve with corn tortilla chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeño Piggies! Sooo, when you’re looking at a bounty of jalapeños and you’ve already pickled several jars, what’s next? Jalapeño poppers, with a bacon twist! These fiery devils will awaken your taste buds, so it’s a good idea to cool things down a bit with dairy products. Hence the need for a melted cheese filling and a yogurt-ranch dipping sauce. My husband and I feasted on a plate of these one night, so you can too—-if you dare!
CHEESE-STUFFED JALAPEÑO PIGGIES
12-14 jalapeño peppers, red or green
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3-4 mozzarella string cheese sticks
2 slices bacon, precooked and crumbled
Crushed tortilla chips
Cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray a wire rack with nonstick oil and place on the baking sheet. Set aside. Wash the jalapeño peppers. Pat dry. Wearing gloves, slice the top of each jalapeño vertically, removing a small section to create a well. Remove seeds and ribs. Discard. Brush each jalapeño pepper with olive oil. Sprinkle on seasonings. Place jalapeños on the wire rack with cut side down. Bake 10 minutes; then set broiler to High and broil 2-3 minutes until peppers are slightly charred. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Using a tongs, flip them over. Divide the cheddar cheese between the jalapeño peppers. Using a kitchen shears, cut the string cheese into strips. Layer over cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the bacon crumbles over the cheese-filled jalapeños. Top with crushed tortilla chips. Broil stuffed “piggies” on High another 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove pan from oven and let cool slightly before transferring stuffed jalapeños to a platter. Serve with ranch salad dressing that has a dollop of Greek yogurt mixed in. Garnish with fresh cilantro.