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.

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.

Texas Tony’s Rib & Brewhouse in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Texas Tony’s Rib & Brewhouse in Naples, Florida! Look for the curls of woodsmoke arising from the barbecue smoker along Tamiami Trail. It’s mighty important to slow cook cuts of beef brisket and pork butts so the exterior is browned just right while the interior remains tender and juicy. Barbecuing is an art, after all. Follow the smoke signals to enter Texas Tony’s where the meat is cooked low and slow all day long to achieve perfection. Using orange tree wood seems to be the Floridian secret. Mild, but definitely delicious. Dinners are complemented by homemade corn bread or Texas toast, sweet coleslaw, baked potato, or cowboy beans. And the sauces: sweet, tangy, spicy. Go wild; mix and match. Everything gets washed down easily when drinks are 2 for 1 all day long. Better check out what you might be missing.

Spicy Poblano Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Spicy Poblano Sauce! Try to avoid slurping this sauce by the spoonful straight out of the jar. Poblano peppers are a whole other animal, so to speak. Compared to its fiery cousins, the habanero or jalapeño, poblanos are mild and earthy, especially when roasted. Most of the time they are either stuffed (like the chile relleno you find on restaurant menus) or served as a sauce over roasted chicken enchiladas. Still confused? Think Mexican green sauce with chicken and spicy red sauce with beef or cheese.

SPICY POBLANO SAUCE

Ingredients:

4 poblano peppers

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 cup light cream

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Space poblano peppers two inches apart. Roast poblano peppers in broiler oven on High setting until the skins are blistered and charred, 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer to a bowl and cover for 15 minutes. When cool, peel off the skin and chop the peppers, discarding seeds and stems. Warm butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and light cream. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring often. Add chopped poblanos. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer poblano mixture to a food processor. Pulse to purée. Season with cumin powder, sea salt, and white pepper. Pulse again. Add Greek yogurt. Blend until smooth. Serve warm over burritos or other Mexican dishes.

Queso Blanco Shrimp Street Tacos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Queso Blanco Shrimp Street Tacos! Not everyone has the luxury of accessibility to freshly-made corn tortillas. Because corn tortillas contain less fat than flour tortillas, they are more prone to breakage. One way to prevent this from happening is to dip them in warmed vegetable oil. The extra moisture enhances the taste. Another way is to take two corn tortillas to create a double-layered shell. That way if the inside tears or cracks when folded in half, the outer shell will keep all the ingredients from falling into your lap. Make sense?

QUESO BLANCO SHRIMP STREET TACOS

Ingredients:

8 corn street tacos

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 pound medium shrimp, precooked, peeled, deveined, and tail removed

2 tablespoons bacon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon raspberry chipotle seasoning

1 ripe avocado, peeled, stone removed, and sliced into wedges

1 cup broccoli slaw

2 large leaves romaine lettuce, gently torn

1/2 cup prepared queso blanco with jalapeños

Fresh lime, for garnish

Cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300°. Set aside a baking sheet. Warm vegetable oil over medium-high heat in an iron skillet. One at a time, dip a corn tortilla into the oil for about 15 seconds; flip and repeat. Drain and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining tortilla shells. Stack them two to a pile on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt (optional). Keep warm in the oven. Using the remaining vegetable oil, add bacon olive oil to the skillet. Gently place the shrimp in the warmed oil. Sprinkle with raspberry chipotle seasoning. After one minute, flip. Shrimp should be slightly charred. Cook one minute longer. Remove from heat. In a bowl, combine the broccoli slaw with the gently torn romaine leaves. Toss. Remove tortillas from the oven. On the four stacks of warmed tortilla shells, place avocado wedges. Divide the broccoli slaw blend between the tacos. Top with sautéed shrimp. Warm the jalapeño queso blanco for 20 seconds in the microwave on high setting. Stir. Repeat, if necessary. Drizzle over street tacos. Squeeze fresh lime juice over all. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Pork Tamales

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Pork Tamales! I have high respect for the Mexican culture, especially when it comes to cooking. For years I have procrastinated about making tamales, probably because I love them and really don’t want that to change. Seriously though, for me the Mexican homemade version is labor intensive. Most little girls were taught the family traditions by their mothers and grannies. To them it comes easily as an art form after decades of making the traditional dish. Sauces from scratch can take an entire day if you begin with boiling the chilies and blending the spices. I left that labor of love for the pros. Now if you’re game, roll up your sleeves, tie on an apron, and let’s get started.

PORK TAMALES

Ingredient Toppings for Tamales:

Tomatoes, diced

Green onions, sliced

Lettuce, chopped

Lime wedge, for garnish

Ingredients for Corn Husks:

6-ounce package dried corn husks

Instructions:

Soak corn husks in hot water for one hour or until softened. Drain husks; pat dry. Set aside.

Ingredients for Cornmeal Dough:

1 1/4 cups solid shortening

4 cups corn masa mix

1 3/4 cups warm chicken broth

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons paprika

Instructions for Cornmeal Dough:

In a large bowl, beat solid shortening on medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy, about 3 minutes. In another bowl, stir corn masa mix, chicken broth, salt, and paprika until combined. Gradually add corn masa mixture to shortening, beating on medium speed just until blended after each addition. Cover dough with plastic wrap until ready to use. Set aside.

Ingredients for Pork Filling:

2 cups fully cooked roast pork, shredded

10-ounce can mild diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained

3/4 cup barbecue sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions for Pork Filling:

In a bowl, combine shredded pork, diced tomatoes and green chilies, barbecue sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir until well blended. Set aside.

Ingredients for Tamale Sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups unsalted beef broth

2 tablespoons adobo sauce from chipotles in adobo

2 teaspoons taco seasoning

Instructions for Tamale Sauce:

In a skillet over medium heat, warm unsalted butter. Do not scorch. Sprinkle in flour, whisking until a paste is formed. Stir 2 minutes longer. Gradually add beef broth, stirring constantly. Allow mixture to slightly thicken, about 5 minutes. Add adobo sauce and taco seasoning. Stir until combined. Set aside. Serve warm over tamales.

Instructions for Assembling Tamales:

Spread about 3 tablespoons of Cornmeal Dough into a 3”x3 1/2” rectangle in center of one corn husk. Spoon one heaping tablespoon of meat filling down the center of the Cornmeal Dough rectangle. Fold long side of husk over, enclosing meat filling with Cornmeal Dough. Fold bottom of husk over folded sides, leaving top end open. Tie with strips of corn husk or bakery twine. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients. In a 16-quart tamale steamer pot, fill water to about 1/2” from the bottom of the rack. Stand tamales above the water level, closed end down, on rack in steamer.* Cover the tamales with leftover husks and a clean cloth before placing the lid on the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and steam over medium heat for two hours until masa is no longer doughy. Add water as necessary. Take one tamale from the middle to check it is done before turning pot off. When done, allow tamales to cool for 10 minutes to set properly. To serve, transfer tamales to a platter. Unwrap a tamale, ladle on the sauce, and top with diced tomatoes, green onion slices, and chopped lettuce. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve immediately.

*In order to keep the tamales upright, put a heat-proof cup, bottom up, in the middle of the rack. It will help the tamales to balance upright.

Ka-Pow! Thai Curry Tacos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Ka-Pow! Thai Curry Tacos! Fusion foods get my vote every time. This is a perfect example of where the Mexican culture teams with a kick of Thai for a contrast that sends the taste buds spinning. Curry is the star attraction and the best kept secret to a spice sensation beyond your wildest dreams. When the ingredients overlap, they bring their own unique experience that transports you halfway around the world in a chemical reaction. Are you ready to travel?

KA-POW! THAI CURRY TACOS

Ingredients:

12 corn tortillas, street-size

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cups cooked turkey meat, shredded

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

8.5 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and finely chopped

10-ounce bag broccoli slaw

1 cup sweet corn, off the cob

Lime wedge, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray each corn tortilla on both sides with nonstick oil. Place on a baking sheet. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside. Warm canola oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the Thai red curry paste, minced garlic, and chopped onion. Cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until the garlic and onions are softened. Add the shredded turkey. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, lime juice, and sun dried tomatoes; simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. To assemble tacos, layer the broccoli slaw onto the crispy corn tacos. Divide the turkey mixture among the tortillas. Top with sweet corn. Garnish with lime wedges. Serve immediately.

Yellowfin Tuna Nachos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Yellowfin Tuna Nachos! I’m not much of a canned tuna fan, but I do appreciate sushi-grade tuna, even if it’s found in the freezer section of the grocery store. Yellowfin and Ahi are two favorites than have delicious flavor. Being mild, yet firm, they work well raw, cubed, seared, or grilled. Be adventurous. Who knows? You may occasionally substitute a beef burger for a tuna burger. But that’s a recipe for another day. Don’t knock it till you try it.

YELLOWFIN TUNA NACHOS

Ingredients:

Corn tortilla chips

1 cup Mexican cheese blend, shredded

1 tomato, diced

1 avocado, pitted and cut into chunks

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 4-ounce yellowfin tuna steaks

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

1/2 cup Ranch dressing, prepared

2 tablespoons wasabi paste

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a baking dish with nonstick oil. Layer with corn tortilla chips. Next, layer Mexican shredded cheese over tortilla chips. Divide diced tomatoes and avocado chunks over all. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat a grill pan on high heat. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle both sides of the tuna steaks with black sesame seeds. Sear steaks on the grill for 3 minutes; flip and sear 2 minutes longer. Remove to a plate and tent with aluminum foil for 2 minutes. Then slice yellowfin tuna steaks against the grain. Remove nachos from oven. Arrange sliced yellowfin tuna over nachos. In a small bowl, combine ranch dressing and wasabi paste. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over nachos. Serve immediately.

Shepherd’s Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Shepherd’s Pie! Chicken or Beef? That’s the biggest decision you need to make with this tasty comfort food recipe. If you follow tradition, no doubt you would choose beef. That’s fine. I, on the other hand, was in the mood for chicken. Either way the cheesy potato crust, over a savory blanket of gravy, is the star attraction. If you are searching for a great weeknight meal without all the fuss, warm up your kitchen, kick back, and relax.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

Ingredients:

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 1/4 cups water

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/4 pounds chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, and cut into chunks

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

16 ounces frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1 cup mashed potatoes

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the cream of mushroom soup and water in a large bowl. Stir well. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add chicken chunks, black pepper, onion powder, and poultry seasoning. Cook until well browned. Transfer the chicken to the soup mixture. Add mixed vegetables. Stir to coat. Spoon chicken filling into a 2-quart casserole dish. Spread mashed potatoes over chicken layer. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake 40 minutes or until chicken filling is hot and bubbly.