Dill Pickle Bacon Spears

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Dill Pickle Bacon Spears! If you’ve ever drooled over the thought of a dill pickle appetizer, be prepared to reward yourself with this amazing recipe you can make at home. For the perfect zing of flavor, choose zesty garlic dill pickle spears. I recommend visiting the butcher department at your favorite grocers to buy a pound of thick sliced hickory-smoked bacon. You only need a half a pound for these appetizers, but trust me, you’ll finish it later on. Not only is the flavor unsurpassed, but the mere texture of thick bacon combined with the garlic pickles is highly addictive. Go ahead, slather them in creamy buttermilk ranch dressing for an unbeatable combination. You’re Welcome!

DILL PICKLE BACON SPEARS

Ingredients:

12 dill pickle spears, zesty garlic

6 slices thick bacon, cut in half lengthwise

1/3 cup buttermilk ranch dressing

Chives for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange the 12 bacon strips on a wire rack that is placed on a foiled-lined baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool until easy to handle. Wrap each dill pickle spear with one strip of bacon, seam side down. Secure with 1-2 toothpicks. Return dill pickles to wire rack and bake 25-30 minutes longer until bacon is crisp. Remove from oven and arrange on a platter. Pour buttermilk ranch dressing into a dip bowl. Garnish with fresh chives. Serve warm.

Hasselback Honey-Roasted Carrots

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Hasselback Honey-Roasted Carrots! Get cooking with a vegetable side dish that will bring on the cheers. It not only has eye appeal when served, it is bursting of natural flavor combined with exotic spices. This is everyday cooking. Who wants to give it a try? These beautifully sliced carrots are incredibly simple to make.

HASSELBACK HONEY-ROASTED CARROTS

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh carrots, peeled and tops trimmed

1/4 cup natural honey

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon thyme

Fresh Chives for garnish

Pomegranate arils for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Beginning at one end of the carrot, slice in vertical strips, being careful to stop before slicing through the bottom. Repeat with remaining carrots. Transfer carrots to a shallow dish. Combine natural honey, olive oil, seasoned salt, black pepper, ground ginger, paprika, ground cumin, and thyme. Stir well. Brush glaze onto the carrots, turning to coat. Place carrots on a nonstick baking pan in a single layer without touching. Bake 40-45 minutes. Garnish with fresh chives and pomegranate arils.

Xia Chinese Shrimp

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Xia Chinese Shrimp! Stir-fry is a popular way to cook a meal. Many chefs use a wok while others simply use a shallow skillet. Both work just fine, so follow your heart. By tossing and stirring chunks of food over high heat, meals are ready in minimal time. Who-hoo! It’s important to use a cooking oil that can handle high heat without smoking, so leave the olive oil on the shelf. Canola and vegetable oil are workhorses that not only have a high smoking point, but also have a neutral taste, which is why it was chosen here. Be sure to prepare ingredients in advance, including side dishes. Once the stir-fry is ready, it’s time to eat.

XIA CHINESE SHRIMP

Ingredients:

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

3 scallions, roughly chopped

1 pound jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

Green onions, for garnish

Instructions:

Whisk together ketchup, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, and agave nectar in a small bowl. Set aside. Warm vegetable oil in a shallow skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced ginger and chopped scallions. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly for one minute. Add shrimp. Cook about 2 minutes, turning over and over. Shrimp will change to pink in color. Add prepared sauce. Cook for one minute until thick, stirring often. Remove from heat. Divide between dinner plates. Garnish with green onion snips. Serve immediately over cooked rice, if desired.

Upgraded Lunch Break

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Upgraded Lunch Break! For those original gamers from the 1980’s, today’s snapshot may detect a slight resemblance to a popular video game character known as Pac-Man. I assure you, that was not my intention. My kids played that harmless game all the time, staring at a screen that literally ate its way to a high score. Then again, I seem to remember them requesting pizza delivery more often as a result of it. At least nowadays I can choose a healthier alternative with multigrain baked crackers that have wheat, corn, and oats. Plus it won’t cost me a roll of quarters.

UPGRADED LUNCH BREAK

Ingredients:

6 multigrain baked crackers

3 slices cherrywood smoked ham, deli-style

1 golden delicious apple, sliced in wedges

Fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Arrange multigrain crackers on a platter. Cut each slice of ham in half. Form into an accordion shape to create “wells”. Secure one end with two strands of fresh chives. Tie securely. Place the ham onto a multigrain cracker, fanning out the hills and valleys. Insert apple wedges where possible, allowing them to stand upright. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Sour Cream ‘n Onion Deviled Eggs

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

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.

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.

Hummus in Hindsight (without tahini)

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Hummus in Hindsight (without tahini)! Let’s spread the news: rules are meant to be broken. I put off making hummus because I had no tahini, sesame seed paste, in my kitchen. The last time I needed it I became frustrated because I couldn’t find it in the grocery stores. So I made it myself. The trouble is homemade tahini can be pricey as well as wasteful if you don’t use it all before it becomes bitter. Not cool. Now you have an alternative. Lose the tahini without sacrificing the taste. By adding sesame oil and spices, you still end up with a smooth, creamy paste to smear onto pita bread. And isn’t that the point?

HUMMUS IN HINDSIGHT (without tahini)

Ingredients:

15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Drizzle of sesame oil, for topping

Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Red pepper bits, for garnish

Chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Using a food processor, pulse the chickpeas until coarse. With the machine running, add the olive oil, sesame oil, and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Fold in the ground cumin, Himalayan pink salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Stir well to combine. Transfer to a shallow dish. Drizzle hummus with sesame oil. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with red pepper bits and sliced chives. Serve with celery sticks, red pepper strips, and pita bread.

Garlic Clove Little Smokies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Garlic Clove Little Smokies! I know people often wait for the holidays to serve this spicy little appetizer, but I recently discovered its popularity as a picnic basket companion. By making it ahead of time and storing it in a jar, it travels well. Add dill pickle chunks, bite-size cheese cubes, vegetable skewers, fresh fruit, chips, salsa, and double chocolate brownies. You’ll have the perfect portable picnic. Doesn’t everyone love finger foods?

GARLIC CLOVE LITTLE SMOKIES

Ingredients:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup catsup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

14 ounces little smokies cocktail wieners

Fresh chives for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, honey, catsup, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, and roasted sesame seeds. Mix well. Add cocktail wieners. Coat evenly. Transfer to a covered casserole dish. Bake for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with roasted sesame seeds and fresh chives before serving.