Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeño Piggies

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Roasted Corn Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Roasted Corn Salad! Nothing tastes better than fresh corn. Shuck it off the cob to make a spectacular side dish that goes well with quesadillas, tacos, and grilled meats. This make-ahead roasted corn salad is another picnic basket favorite that travels well and satisfies a crowd. Simply modify the portions to match the event. It’s fresh, it’s spicy, and it’ll keep ’em coming back for more.

ROASTED CORN SALAD

Ingredients:

3 ounces cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon water

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

3 ears bicolor corn, shucked off cob

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup black beans, drained

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1 jalapeño pepper, chopped

1 ripe tomato, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Combine the cider vinegar, water, olive oil, sugar, sea salt, and white pepper in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool at room temperature. In an iron skillet over medium-high heat, add vegetable oil. Drop the corn kernels into the skillet; stir to coat. Every few minutes, turn corn with a spatula. As the kernels begin to char, continue turning until corn is tender, about 6-7 minutes. It may be necessary to reduce heat. Place black beans in a large covered bowl. Transfer roasted corn to same bowl. Sprinkle with garlic powder, cumin powder, and Cajun seasoning. Add chopped jalapeño pepper, tomato, green pepper, celery, red onion, and cooled marinade. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.

Zappy Mango Salsa Scoops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Zappy Mango Salsa Scoops! Have you discovered how sweet and juicy the mango is? Like any other fruit, use your sense of smell to tell if it’s ripe. Sniff around the stem for a fragrant aroma. Because it has a natural sugar content, the mango will ferment on your kitchen counter for a couple days. It will be slightly soft to the touch, the same way an avocado feels when it’s time. Although the skin is edible, I prefer to peel it away. Just a note: the center stone is quite large and almost furry. Simply slice fruit chunks into a bowl and cut them into cubes. Mangoes go well with citrus fruits such as lemons and limes, spicy vegetables like jalapeños and peppers, and also protein-rich legumes like black beans. Now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Mmmm.

ZAPPY MANGO SALSA SCOOPS

Ingredients:

3 ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed

15.25-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion, diced

1/4 cup pickled jalapeños, chopped

1/4 cup jalapeño liquid from jar

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Scoop-style corn chips

Instructions:

In a large bowl, toss cubed mangoes and black beans with diced red onions. Fold in chopped jalapeños. Add jalapeño liquid, lime juice, sea salt, garlic powder, and chopped cilantro. Gently stir to combine. Serve with scoop-style corn chips.

Jicama Avocado Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Jicama Avocado Salad! Allow me to introduce you to the legume family. Jicama is a cousin to beans, peas, and lentils. It provides protein, which is important to everyone, whether you’re a vegetarian or not. Choosing foods that are beneficial to a healthy diet can keep a weekly menu from turning hum-drum and boring. Jicama can be prepared in any number of ways. Eating it raw is just one of them. Its taste slightly resembles a crispy red apple. Only recently I slathered peanut butter all over a slice as a variation from a celery stick. Jicama is also low-carb, if that’s important to you. Not a raw-veggie-kind-of-person? Slice ‘em up and make a batch of french fries. It works.

JICAMA AVOCADO SALAD

Ingredients:

I large jicama

1 avocado, pitted and chopped

Zest of 2 limes

1 teaspoon Tajin seasoning

1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Juice of 2 limes

Fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Using a chef’s knife, slowly peel the thick skin of the jicama. Cut a thin slice at the top and bottom so the vegetable can keep from rolling. Working from top to bottom, slide the knife under the skin to remove the tough, fibrous outer covering. Rinse jicama and slice into matchsticks. Transfer to a bowl. Halve the avocado and remove pit. Scoop the flesh away from the skin. Chop avocado into bite-sized pieces. Add to the jicama sticks. Sprinkle with lime zest, Tajin seasoning, smoky paprika, and garlic powder. Squeeze lime juice over all. Add chopped cilantro leaves. Gently toss and serve.

Grilled Avocado Bowls

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Grilled Avocado Bowls! Now you have a reason to eat more than mashed avocados in guacamole. Anyone can become a grill master with this perfect side dish. By grilling these sumptuous half moons, you not only get a portion all to yourself, the protein-packed morsels will give you energy enough to tackle whatever else is on your list. The touch of lime compliments the earthy hint of outdoor smoke. Top them off with farm fresh sweet corn niblets, chopped Roma tomatoes, and leafy cilantro snips. See what you’ve been missing.

GRILLED AVOCADO BOWLS

Ingredients:

2 avocados, halved and pitted

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon Italian salad dressing dry mix

1/2 cup sweet corn

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

1 slices Roma tomato, chopped

Fresh Cilantro

Lime wedges

Instructions:

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Drizzle each avocado half with lime juice. Use a pastry brush to coat the cut side of the avocados with olive oil. Avoid surplus in the well; it may cause a flare up. Sprinkle on garlic powder. Divide the Italian dry mix over all. Place the avocados on the hot grill, cut side directly on the grate. Cook for 3 minutes or until grill marks and slight charring is visible. Meanwhile, combine sweet corn, diced pimento, chopped tomato, and cilantro leaves in a bowl. Gently toss. Using a tongs, carefully transfer avocado bowls to a platter. Fill the centers with a scoop of the sweet corn mixture. Before serving, squeeze lime juice over all.

Surf ‘n Turf Lettuce Cups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Surf ‘n Turf Lettuce Cups! This is one of those freezer meals that you can throw together in a flash. Precooked frozen shrimp and leftover sirloin tip roast are the main attractions. By adding spices, fresh herbs, and a special dipping sauce, this hearty meal knocks it out of the park! The whole idea behind the lettuce cup is keeping it simple. You deserve all the praise!

SURF ‘N TURF LETTUCE CUPS

Ingredients:

1 pound frozen jumbo shrimp, precooked and thawed

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay Style seafood seasoning

1/4 teaspoon dill

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 pound sirloin tip roast, shredded

1/8 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb Blend

1 tablespoon Golden Mountain sauce

1/2 cup French Fried Onions

Boston Lettuce leaves

For Dipping Sauce:

6-8 dried peppers, sliced

1/4 teaspoon fried garlic

1 wedge of lime

1/2 teaspoon honey

2-4 tablespoons Golden Mountain Sauce

2-4 tablespoons fish sauce

Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Thaw shrimp according to package directions. Remove tails and discard. Dab shrimp with paper towels. In a deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add seafood seasoning, dill, and lime juice. Cook 1-2 minutes, turning once. Remove and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add roast beef to same skillet using pan drippings. Season with Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb blend and Golden Mountain sauce. Stir. Reduce to simmer until heated through and liquid is absorbed. Return shrimp to pan and gently combine with beef. Wash Boston Lettuce; separate leaves, being careful not to tear. Arrange lettuce in a bowl. Fill lettuce cups with shrimp and beef mixture. Garnish with French Fried Onions. Serve with Dipping Sauce, which can also be used as a dressing.

‘Mazing Mango Salsa

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: ‘Mazing Mango Salsa! Turn Taco Tuesday into one more reason to celebrate. Take ordinary salsa and kick it up a notch into a flavor explosion that is as sweet as it is spicy. Honey mangoes make all the difference when paired with tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro. One scoop of a chip and you may find yourself filling up before the meal is served. No worries. Sit back, relax, add a classic lime margarita on-the-rocks, and turn it into “Happy Hour”.

‘MAZING MANGO SALSA

Ingredients:

2 honey mangoes, peeled and diced

1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 Roma tomato, diced

1 tablespoon pimento, chopped

3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss gently to mix. Refrigerate one hour. Serve with warm salted tortilla chips.

Waffle Doodle-Doo

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Waffle Doodle-Doo! The million dollar question of the day is “Why are chicken and waffles so popular?” Could it be the crispy moist chicken tenders, or the fluffy golden-edge waffle, or the sweet creamy butter? Maybe. Perhaps it’s the robust taste of natural maple syrup. That’s good, too. Personally, I like the explosive kick of jalapeño and the bite of cilantro mixed in. Sliced apple sticks are a bonus. No matter your preference, it’s kind of a thing. Go the easy route like I did. Pick up an order of breaded chicken tenders from your favorite food joint. Since my husband is a master on the waffle iron, he does that part. Make extra waffles; they freeze well. You can thank me later. Pull it all together for a unique flavor that works for breakfast, weekend brunch, or late night craving.

WAFFLE DOODLE-DOO

Ingredients:

4 chicken tenders, precooked

2 buttermilk or Belgian-style frozen waffles

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1-2 tablespoons jalapeño pepper jelly

1 Gala apple, cored and sliced into matchsticks

Butter, room temperature

Fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Warm chicken tenders in a 350° oven while waffles are being made in the waffle iron or heated in a toaster to desired crispness. Combine maple syrup and jalapeño jelly in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on High in 15-second intervals. Stir together until jelly is melted and the flavors are blended. Core the apple, then slice into matchsticks. For presentation, cut waffles into triangles to form a “tent”. Brush waffles with softened butter. Drizzle with jalapeño maple syrup. Arrange chicken tenders. Add apples. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Tortilla Crusted Tilapia

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia! I never thought of tilapia as an interesting choice of fish until I mixed things up with a Santa Fe style coating. The robust crunch of tortilla chips is a surprising prelude to the tender moist fish inside. It had me wishing I prepared seconds for the hubs and me. If you’re looking for a meatless meal, give it a whirl. Who knows, you may find yourself adding tilapia to the weekly menu.

TORTILLA CRUSTED TILAPIA

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Santa Fe style tortilla strips, crushed

1 tablespoon natural cornmeal

1 tablespoon panko bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes

1 egg, room temperature

Fresh cilantro, garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. Whisk egg in a shallow dish. Set aside. On a sheet of waxed paper, combine crushed tortilla strips, natural cornmeal, panko bread crumbs, lemon pepper, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, and parsley flakes. Mix well with a fork. Working one at a time, dip a tilapia fillet into the beaten egg. Flip over to coat both sides. Press fillet onto the crumb mixture; turn over and repeat. For an extra crispy crust repeat process. Carefully transfer crusted fish fillet to the baking sheet. Continue with second fillet. Bake 10 minutes or until crust is golden and crunchy. Serve with fresh cilantro.