Zapata Mexican Corn Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Zapata Mexican Corn Salad! Picnic season is upon us and salads are the star attractions. They are not only refreshing, colorful, and bursting with flavor, but look appealing in glass jars…making them incredibly portable. Choose single-size portions or larger quantities. How fun is that? Southwest corn offers the extra kick of poblano and red peppers. Pair it with natural sweet corn for amazing seasoning. Top everything off with the crunch of chili cheese corn chips. Toss a bag in the picnic basket since you only crush them and sprinkle them on before serving. Nibbling is allowed.

ZAPATA MEXICAN CORN SALAD

Ingredients:

15-ounce can Southwest Corn with poblanos and red peppers, whole kernel and drained

15-ounce can natural sweet corn, whole kernel and drained

2 radishes, chopped

1 green onion, chopped

1/2 red onion, diced

1 jalapeño, chopped

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

9.75-ounce bag chili cheese corn chips

Cilantro for garnish

Instructions:

Combine southwest corn, sweet corn, radishes, green onion, red onion, and jalapeño. Mix well. Stir in mayonnaise and Greek yogurt. Fold in cheddar cheese. Stir well. Transfer to covered container. Refrigerate one hour. Before serving, crush chili cheese corn chips. Sprinkle on top. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

Huevos Rancheros

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Huevos Rancheros! The nice thing about a breakfast like this is it’s basically made from leftovers. Beef roast. Check. Baked potatoes. Check, check. If you need ingredients on short notice, no worries. Substitute cooked chicken instead. Potatoes with the skin on cook very quickly in the microwave before being transformed into tasty hash browns. Just remember to pierce them first. Then cook on High for 5 minutes each. For this morning’s heuvos rancheros, I skipped the tortillas and substituted a couple of corn chips for crunch. It’s all good.

HUEVOS RANCHEROS

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups beef, cooked and shredded

10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies, mild

1/3 cup onion, chopped

3/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 potatoes, baked and cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons butter

4 eggs

Fresh cilantro

4 tortillas or corn chips

Fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Combine shredded beef, diced tomatoes with green chilies, chopped onion, cumin, oregano, and sea salt in a large saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. This makes the beef moist and tender. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, drizzle olive oil. Add cubed potatoes. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Cook 5 minutes or until golden brown. Do not stir. Turn potatoes for a crispy finish; cook 5 minutes longer. Drizzle in more olive oil, if needed to avoid burning. Remove potatoes from heat when desired texture is reached. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. In another skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Crack 4 eggs into the skillet. Fry eggs sunny side up in butter, 3-4 minutes for runny yolks. To assemble huevos rancheros, layer corn chips or a tortilla on the plate. Next, add spicy meat mixture, then crispy hash brown potatoes. Top with fried egg. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Dirty Kettle Chips

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Dirty Kettle Chips! Get set to trigger your brain’s pleasure center. I came upon this treat after surviving a bout with the flu bug. For days all I could do was crawl into bed and sleep, drink plenty of water, then satisfy my hunger pangs with spoonfuls of chicken noodle soup. Obviously when my appetite returned, I discovered there weren’t too many groceries in the house. Voilà, Dirty Kettle Chips were born. One bite was all it took to begin craving more. You should try it.

DIRTY KETTLE CHIPS

Ingredients:

8-ounce bag kettle-cooked potato chips

6-ounces provolone cheese, sliced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Green onion snips, garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray an iron skillet with nonstick oil. Arrange potato chips in a single layer overlapping a bit. Next add provolone cheese on top. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Top with cracked black pepper. Repeat for second layer. Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese melts and edges turn slightly brown. Remove from oven. Garnish with green onion snips. Serve immediately.

Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese! I find this is seriously the best way to make macaroni and cheese for a crowd without all the fuss. It is so kid-friendly, in fact, you may discover you have an extra pair of helping hands without even asking. When using a slow cooker, the pasta softens as the sauce thickens into a hot, creamy, extra-cheesy youthful delight. Top it off with crushed potato chips for a heart-warming side dish.

CROCKPOT MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

1 pound cellentani pasta, also known as cavatappi, uncooked

4 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 cup potato chips, crushed

Instructions:

Spray the crockpot with nonstick oil. Pour the uncooked pasta into the bottom of the slow cooker. Layer the butter and cream cheese chunks over the pasta. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, milk, and cream. Mix well. Pour over pasta. Stir to blend. Spread pasta into an even layer, being sure to coat everything in sauce. Cover and cook on LOW for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Be sure to spread macaroni into one layer after stirring to keep pasta coated with sauce. When pasta is done, sprinkle shredded cheddar and pepper jack over all. Stir to combine. Replace cover and cook 10 minutes until cheese is creamy and melted. Sprinkle with crushed potato chips before serving.

Quest Fundido Poblano Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Quest Fundido Poblano Dip! When my garden harvested a nice crop of poblano peppers, I was already counting the days until I would take these mildly rich green peppers and transform them into an earthy Mexican favorite. Poblanos, you see, are a cross between a jalapeño and a bell pepper. Hot, but not a scorcher, if you know what I mean. You may be more familiar with them in a popular restaurant dish called a chile relleno or another known as chile poblano. Either way, they’re amazing.

QUEST FUNDIDO POBLANO DIP

Ingredients:

2-4 chili poblano peppers

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 ounces feta cheese

Corn tortilla chips

Instructions:

Heat an iron skillet on the stove over medium-high setting. Place poblano peppers into pan. Allow peppers to blister and blacken. Turn with tongs to allow even roasting. When the peppers are charred and soft, transfer them to a covered bowl to steam and cool, about 10-15 minutes. When able to handle, peel skins and discard. Cut poblano peppers into strips or chop into smaller pieces. Layer in the bottom of a casserole dish. Set aside. In a medium skillet, cook ground beef over medium-high heat. Break into small pieces, turning often until ground beef is browned and crumbled. Drain, if necessary. Add sea salt, cumin powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Mix well. Layer crumbled ground beef over poblano peppers. Top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese and feta cheese crumbles. Broil until cheeses are melted and golden brown in spots. Serve warm with corn tortilla chips.

Taqueria Guacamole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Taqueria Guacamole! Everyone eats out, that’s a fact. It gives us pleasure. Besides, it takes less energy than planning, shopping, and cooking at the end of the day. But have you ever had a taste for one of the vacay restaurant specials and wish you could make it yourself? Well, I do it all the time. That’s why I recreated a popular cantina menu item that takes guacamole to the next level.

TAQUERIA GUACAMOLE

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados; halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 green tomato, chopped

1 red tomato, chopped

1 tablespoon red onion, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, sliced

1 roasted red chili pepper, diced

Cilantro to garnish

Instructions:

In a medium mixing bowl, mash avocado chunks with a fork until thick and smooth. Sprinkle in lime juice, garlic powder, and sea salt. Fold in green tomato chunks and red tomato chunks. Transfer to a serving dish. Top with chopped red onion, jalapeño slices, and diced red chilies. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips.

Urban Taco Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Urban Taco Pizza! If you’re caught between the Taco/Pizza dilemma of what to have for dinner, simply combine the two for a taste extravaganza. Everyone wins. By using a prepared crust, taco seasoning packet, and bottled salsa, dinner can be ready in as fast as 30 minutes. For the cooking enthusiast, I know you already have all the homemade ingredients on hand. Either way, time is valuable in a life of constant motion. Do yourself a favor and prepare a healthy option at home. It’s easy, delicious, and most of all kid-friendly!

URBAN TACO PIZZA

Ingredients:

1 prepared pizza crust, any variety

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 pound lean ground beef

1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix

1 cup salsa plus more for topping

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup Spring Mix salad greens

1-2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup slices black olives

Crushed tortilla chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a pizza pan with nonstick oil. Sprinkle cornmeal on pan. Cover with pizza dough. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. In a skillet, cook ground beef until crumbly. Add taco seasoning mix. Mix well. Cover pizza dough with 1 cup salsa. Layer ground beef mixture, spreading almost to the edge. Top with both cheeses. Bake 15-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is completely melted. Remove from oven. Top with mixed salad greens, chopped tomatoes, and sliced black olives. Spoon on more salsa, to taste.

Mexi-Wing Restaurant in Athens, Tennessee

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.

Snickerdoodle Chocolate Chip Cookies

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

Ingredients:

16.5-ounce box yellow cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

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.