Grass-Fed Beef Tostados

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Grass-Fed Beef Tostadas! If you like the taste of corn tacos, the tostada is a distant cousin. Basically, one is folded, the other is flat. Brushed with oil, then “toasted” crisp, the tostada is made to hold the toppings. This recipe allows you to bend the tortilla if you prefer to eat it that way. Whatever falls onto the plate can be scooped back up into your mouth. No judgment here. Now, about grass-fed beef. It’s going to cost a little more per pound due to the lack of fat content, compounded by the extra time it takes to fatten the cow. Grain makes cows get fat faster, just like it does for humans. I like grass-fed because it is more nutritious with heart-healthy omega 3s plus vitamins. It’s all about the choices we make.

GRASS-FED BEEF TOSTADAS

Ingredients:

1 pound grass-fed ground beef

1 packet fajita seasoning dry mix

1/3 cup canola oil

8 corn tortillas

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, gently torn

1-2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 red onion, sliced thin

8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Fresh cilantro, leaves only

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. Because grass-fed beef has a lower fat content, steaming it is a good option. In a medium skillet, cover the bottom with water. Crumble the ground beef into the water. Set the stovetop temperature to medium-high. Break up any large clumps. Allow the water to boil. Stir the meat to cook evenly. Turn often. When the meat is brown, it is done. Drain the cooked ground beef using a strainer. Dispose of water and grease. Return ground beef to the pan. Sprinkle with fajita seasoning mix. Stir well to coat. Have the burner on lowest setting to keep warm. Spray a shallow skillet with nonstick oil. Set heat to medium-high. Brush one side of corn tortilla with canola oil. Place oiled side down in skillet. Brush the remaining side with canola oil. Fry the shell until golden for 30 seconds to a minute per side. This makes the shell fairly stiff. If the pan begins to smoke, lower the heat setting slightly. Remove the tortilla and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Keep tortillas warm in the oven. Repeat process with remaining tortillas. To assemble, begin with a fried tortilla. Layer with iceberg lettuce, seasoned ground beef, chopped tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese, and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately with guacamole and salsa.

Double Decker Shrimp Nachos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Double-Decker Shrimp Nachos! Get set for a taste extravaganza that will implode inside your mouth. Talk about a nacho upgrade. It just may kick the ordinary version to the curb. Look at the ingredient list: sautéed shrimp, gooey cheeses, cayenne peppers, and fresh veggies. Double-Decker means two layers of mouthwatering goodness. Better add a side of plain yogurt or sour cream to control the fire, just in case. Keep ingredients on hand. You’re going to end up making it twice!

DOUBLE-DECKER SHRIMP NACHOS

Ingredients:

11-ounce bag corn tortilla chips

12-ounce bag large cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon crushed oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

8-ounces Mexican cheese blend, finely shredded

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup corn, frozen and thawed

4-5 green onions, snipped

1 avocado, sliced

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a 9”x13” glass dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Arrange shrimp in a single layer. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, crushed oregano, and garlic salt. Turn shrimp to brown both sides. Remove from heat. Repeat if necessary until all shrimp is sautéed. Line bottom of glass dish with a single layer of corn tortilla chips, slightly overlapping. Place half the shrimp over chips. You may cut the shrimp into bite-size pieces. Sprinkle 1 cup of Mexican cheese blend over shrimp. Next top cheeses with one chopped tomato and corn. Using a kitchen shears, snip 2 green onions into bite-size pieces randomly over top. Repeat process for second layer, beginning with tortilla chips. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven. Garnish with sliced avocado and a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes for extra flavor. Serve warm.

Yorkshire Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Yorkshire Pudding! Remember Sunday afternoons at grandma’s house for a traditional pot roast dinner and lively conversation? The rich beef gravy practically dribbled down your chin overflowing from the saturated yeast rolls or Yorkshire pudding. Recently, I was swept back in time when I ordered this savory dish at a charming little pub in the Canadian Rockies. It was at that moment I knew I had to bring a bit of nostalgia back home. As you can see, my version included shredded beef drippings, rich brown gravy, and assorted mixed vegetables for a pocket full of perfection.

YORKSHIRE PUDDING

Ingredients:

4 eggs

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons flour

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons water

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup bacon drippings

Instructions:

Combine eggs, flour, milk, water, and salt. Refrigerate batter overnight in an airtight container. The next day, remove batter to allow it to rest at room temperature while the oven is being preheated. Adjust oven rack to center position. Preheat oven to 450°. Place one teaspoon of bacon drippings into each well of the bouchon pan. Place pan in the oven while it is preheating, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Fill each well 3/4 full. Do not overfill. Return pan to oven. Bake 25 minutes until Yorkshire puddings quadruple in volume. Serve immediately with meat, vegetables, and gravy.

Tex-Mex Tortilla Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Tex-Mex Tortilla Soup! One thing I love about Fall is the convenience of crockpot meals. Throw all the ingredients together, stir, and then forget about it for a few hours. Do something fun……and I don’t mean raking leaves or shelling walnuts. Take a nature walk, visit an apple orchard, choose a mum plant for your front door, photograph colorful pumpkins and gourds. You get the idea. Don’t let the season pass you by. Autumn is in full swing and Mother Earth has splattered the landscape with vibrant colors.

TEX-MEX TORTILLA SOUP

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef

20-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies, mild flavor

10-ounce can diced tomatoes, zesty flavor

15-ounce can black beans, organic

15-ounce can corn, drained

15-ounce can kidney beans, drained

4-ounce packet taco seasoning mix

4-ounce packet ranch seasoning mix

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

3 green onions, snipped

1/3 cup sliced jalapeño peppers

Instructions:

Brown ground beef. Drain any liquid. Place ground beef, tomatoes (juice included), black beans, corn, kidney beans, taco dry seasoning mix, and ranch dry seasoning mix in a slow-cooker. Mix well. Cover and cook on High for 3-4 hours OR on Low for 6-8 hours. Uncover. Ladle Tex-Mex Tortilla Soup into bowl and garnish with Monterey Jack cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt, onion snips, and jalapeño pepper rings. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Veggie Pot Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Veggie Pot Pie! Do you like to make pie dough? What if it’s not flaky? Are you okay with that? How do you keep the bottom crust from being soggy? Is it necessary to have a top crust? All very good questions, I assure you. Forget them for now and come with me into the land of phyllo dough where tissue-thin layers of unleavened dough are brushed with melted butter creating a crispy golden crunch. Expert bakers took the time and skill to make our lives easier by rolling and stretching the dough multiple times so we don’t have to. The result is a product as close as our neighborhood grocer. With pre-made phyllo dough as your starting point, anyone can be a gourmet chef. No dough-making required.

VEGGIE POT PIE

Ingredients:

7-ounce box antioxidant blend frozen vegetables, thawed

1 cup pearl onions

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup frozen green beans, thawed

1 sweet potato, skin on

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, cut-up

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator overnight

6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Keep phyllo dough chilled until ready to use. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine antioxidant vegetable blend, pearl onions, corn, peas, and green beans. Gently toss to keep vegetables from mashing. Wash skin of sweet potato. Pierce with a knife. Microwave on High setting for 3 minutes. Let sweet potato cool enough to handle before cutting into cubes. Gently toss into vegetable mixture. Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom pieces. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook, stirring occasionally until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl of mixed vegetables. Add parmesan cheese. Mix beaten egg into vegetables. Sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Butter a 9” iron skillet. Unroll the phyllo sheets and lay them on a flat surface. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. This prevents the dough from drying out. Keep phyllo covered after removing each sheet. Fit one phyllo sheet into the skillet, allowing the edges to hang over the sides. Brush lightly with melted butter. Continue working quickly by placing one phyllo sheet in the skillet at a time. Turn skillet a quarter-turn, then top with a second sheet; brush lightly with butter. Repeat with remaining sheets and butter. When finished there should be about a tablespoon of butter left. Spoon vegetable mixture evenly over phyllo layers. Sprinkle goat cheese over top. Fold edges of phyllo dough up and over the filling toward the center, overlapping slightly. Center will be exposed. Brush the top of the phyllo with remaining butter. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown. Transfer iron skillet to a wire rack. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. The flavor of roasted vegetables intensifies at room temperature. Serve warm. (Leftovers may be reheated in the iron skillet with the crust remaining crisp.)

Street Tacos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Street Tacos! This is literally Cooking 101. I have been making tacos since I was 16 years old, before microwave ovens and gourmet kitchens were commonplace. My Aunt Gail, in Michigan, taught me the timeless secrets of a classic Mexican staple. First of all, you must use authentic yellow corn tortillas. Forget the box because you’re going to fry up the shells for freshness. It’s worth the effort, believe me.

STREET TACOS

Ingredients:

16-ounce package yellow corn tortillas

2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef, lean

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 green onions, snipped

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Shredded lettuce

Fresh cilantro

Pico de Gallo or salsa

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. Brown ground beef in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the beef is crumbly. Drain, if necessary. Season beef with garlic, cumin powder, onion powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add tortilla; cook 10 seconds per side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat until all tortillas have been fried. Reduce heat. One at a time, place a tortilla back into the skillet. Add 1-2 tablespoons ground beef mixture into each tortilla. Fold in half and place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all tortillas and ground beef are used. Warm in the oven until ready to serve. Assemble street tacos, per taste, with shredded lettuce, onion, cheese, cilantro, and Pico de Gallo.

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.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Homemade Tortilla Chips! Ever wonder why your favorite Mexican restaurant has such incredible tortilla chips? Well now you can make your own café-style chips at home. Begin with flour and corn tortillas the day before. Just open the packages and let them breathe overnight on the kitchen counter. This simple step removes any excess moisture and allows them to fry up crispier. Sprinkled with sea salt and dipped in chunky salsa is practically a dream come true.

HOMEMADE TORTILLA CHIPS

Ingredients:

2 cups vegetable oil

1 package yellow corn tortillas, extra thin

1 package flour tortillas, soft taco size

Sea salt to taste

Instructions:

Cut each corn tortilla into 8 wedges. Use entire package. Set aside. Cut each flour tortilla in half and then into strips. Use entire package. Set aside. Beginning with one cup vegetable oil in a large skillet, heat the oil on medium setting until a tortilla sizzles. Avoid smoke. That means the oil is too hot. Place a handful of corn tortilla wedges into the hot oil. Do not overlap. Fry for 1-2 minutes until the chips are golden and crisp. Use tongs to flip over half way through, if necessary. As the oil is used, reduce heat to avoid smoking. Use tongs to remove chips from oil; drain on paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat in batches until all corn chips are fried. Add remaining cup of oil to skillet. Repeat with flour tortilla strips. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy!

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.