Dining Outside the Home: Dos Caminos in Times Square, New York! Perhaps Cinco de Mayo isn’t the best time to try out an authentic Mexican restaurant. But then again, maybe it is. The vibrant cantina was hopping like a fiesta celebration. Shot glasses were slung back and refilled on demand. Traditional guacamole was served in natural molcajete stones with warm tortilla chips. The salsa trio was a bonus. Queso Fundido, piping hot in a black iron skillet, was spot on. Thick with melted cheese, poblano peppers, dark beer, and roasted tomatoes made it a meal. Keep the Cadillac Margaritas coming for an amazing culmination.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Neufchâtel Crab Dip! Easy seafood appetizers can be prepared in no time at all. By substituting miniature phyllo dough shells for snack crackers, the results are impressively gourmet. Who doesn’t love that WOW factor?! Make this appetizer the star of your next gathering. Everyone will thank you.
NEUFCHÂTEL CRAB DIP
1 6-ounce can crabmeat, drained, flaked, and cartilage removed
1/2 cup lobster meat, chunk style
1 green onion, snipped
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon lemon peel, finely shredded
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8-ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup Jalapeño Confetti Jelly*
15-count package miniature phyllo dough shells
Fresh dill sprigs
Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange phyllo shells on a baking sheet. Bake 5-7 minutes until crisp. Remove and set aside. In a medium bowl, toss crabmeat, lobster, and green onion snips in dill weed, shredded lemon peel, and lemon juice. In a another bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Fold crabmeat mixture into mayonnaise mixture. Transfer dip to an oven-proof dish. Top with Jalapeño Confetti Jelly. Bake 20 minutes. Spoon warm crab dip into phyllo shells. Garnish with fresh dill sprigs. Serve warm.
*Follow the link for the recipe for Jalapeño Confetti Jelly.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Nutella Strawberry Dip! Here’s a match made in Heaven for chocolate-lovers and strawberries. Try it at home and then think about something new for the next social gathering where you’re asked to bring something yummy to share. It’s so Strawberrylicious, my first word of advice is…double the recipe. You’ll have the ingredients on hand, so go for it. It’s easy to make, kid-friendly, healthy, and sweet. Next stop: Holiday Party, Book Club, Girls Night Out, Birthday Celebration, Family Gathering, Block Party. The list goes on and on and on.
NUTELLA STRAWBERRY DIP
3/4 cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread
1/3 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1 cup Cool Whip, regular or light
1 cup mini chocolate chips, for garnish
Fresh Strawberries, sliced in half
Combine Nutella, powdered sugar, and Neufchâtel cheese in a bowl. Using a hand mixer, mix on Low until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip topping. Blend well. Pour into covered bowl. Kept refrigerated until ready to serve. Arrange sliced strawberries on a platter. Pour dip into a serving bowl. Garnish with mini chocolate chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Uruguayan Chorizo Cheese Dip! Traveling exposes you to all kinds of different foods, especially nowadays. I can’t tell you how often we are hundreds of miles from home and end up running into someone who used to live down the road from us. It’s a small world, isn’t it? Striking up a conversation with strangers, who have become city residents, brings out the best places in local hot spots. After all, when asked, “What restaurants do you favor in your free time”, they begin rattling off a list of specialties worthy of remembering. At that point I’m making notes on my cell phone to further explore reviews and websites for our next meal. That’s what happened the day we ate at a fusion restaurant and discovered how tasty hot melted cheese can be. Pass it on.
URUGUAYAN CHORIZO CHEESE DIP
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 pound smoky provolone cheese, sliced
1/4 pound montamoré cheese, crumbled
1/4 pound parmesan cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chorizo, cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeño slices
Preheat oven to 400°. Place an iron skillet, rubbed with vegetable oil, into the oven while it is preheating. Carefully remove it after 4-5 minutes, or when the buzzer indicates the oven has reached that temperature. Layer the sliced provolone cheese in the bottom of the skillet. Be sure to cover the bottom completely. Next, cover the provolone with crumbled montamoré cheese. Finally, top with grated parmesan cheese. Sprinkle dried oregano, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes over all. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are crispy and the cheese is melted. The bottom of the cheese dip will be slightly seared. Remove from the oven and garnish with warmed chorizo and jalapeño slices. Serve with corn tortilla chips.
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
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
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Hummus Amongus! If I told you this was a healthy alternative to chip dip, would you believe me? It’s true. The difference is hummus is made from chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. They are rich in protein and provide daily fiber. Their smooth texture feels buttery in the mouth leaving a slightly nut-like aftertaste. By adding lemon and spices, it’s the perfect partner for pita chips and fresh vegetables. Go ahead, indulge!
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup tahini paste
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon pimento, diced
1 teaspoon lemon olive oil
Using a food processor, pulse garbanzo beans until smooth. Add tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin powder, and salt. Process until mixed. Transfer hummus to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with lemon olive oil. Garnish with diced pimento. Serve with fresh crudités.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Fabulous Fruit Dip! Recently I served a delightful fruit cup for breakfast when family came to visit. Because it is made with Greek yogurt and nutmeg, it’s an impressive alternative to ordinary yogurt. Think of it as Summer-in-a-Cup. Whether you decide to arrange a generous fruit platter for a crowd or scale it down to individual portions, the results are the same: heavenly delicious!
FABULOUS FRUIT DIP
1 large orange*
8 ounces of Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
4 ounces marshmallow Creme
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/8 teaspoon orange zest
Assorted fresh fruits
Mint Sprig for Garnish
Cut 1/3 off the top of the orange to create a “bowl”. Carefully run a sharp knife around the inside. Do not cut through the peel. Gently scoop out the fruit. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together Neufchâtel cheese and marshmallow creme. Beat until smooth. Fold in Greek yogurt. Make the zest by using the top portion of the orange peel. Add orange extract, zest, and nutmeg. Blend thoroughly. Chill one hour. Scoop into the orange “bowl” before serving. Garnish with fresh mint sprig. Place on a serving platter surrounded by fresh fruit.
* For individual servings, choose four small navel oranges.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Yellow Bloomin’ Onion! Nothing is more fitting for Spring than an appealing appetizer that resembles a flower, in my opinion. Now you can make a healthy version at home by baking the breaded onion instead of deep-frying it. The last few minutes under the broiler give it a crispy finish that adds extra crunch to the delicious petals. And the dipping sauce….oh my gosh, you have to try it!
YELLOW BLOOMIN’ ONION
1 large yellow onion
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup Panko crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Cajun spices
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1-2 tablespoons butter, melted
Seasoning salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400°. In one bowl, combine the flour, bread crumbs, Panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and Cajun spice. Mix well. Set aside. In another bowl, combine beaten eggs and milk. Whisk together. Set aside. Cut the top side of the onion. Turn over and carefully cut the root side just enough to peel the outer skin of the onion. Leave the root intact as this will be the base and hold the onion together. Discard onion skins. In order to give the appearance of an open flower, 16 sections are made. With the root side up, place the knife 1/8″ away from the core and slice straight down. It is best to begin with quarters and then make 3 slices in each quadrant all the way around. Carefully turn the onion over and spread the “petals” apart. Dip the onion in the milk bath and wash it completely using a pastry brush. Carefully transfer the onion to the bowl filled with breading. Beginning at the bottom, cover each petal with dry coating. Again using the pastry brush, continue coating the petals until the egg wash is gone. You may alternate the egg mixture and dry coating to cover the petals. Transfer the onion to an oven-safe pie plate or dish. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Using hot pads, take the pan from the oven and remove the foil. Using a pastry brush, coat the onion with melted butter. Return to the oven. Bake 10 minutes longer, or until crispy. I set the broiler on High and broiled it for 4-5 minutes to make it extra-crunchy. Watch carefully so it does not burn. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Place on a serving platter. Serve with dipping sauce.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
3 teaspoons ketchup
2 teaspoons Lea and Perrins
2 tablespoons horseradish
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, ketchup, Lea and Perrins, horseradish, paprika, and cayenne. Mix well and refrigerate for one hour. Pour into a small cup and place in the center of the onion.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Xenial Spinach Dip! Take a trip down Memory Lane with this hip 1970s all-star party staple. “I called it!”, shouted my best friend when asked to bring an appetizer to share. Maybe it was the presentation of carrying an artisan bread bowl into the room, or perhaps it was the “healthy” alternative to potato chips and onion dip, or it could have been the standing ovation it got from everyone who tasted it. Think about it….how fun is that to tear off a piece of crusty bread and slather it in creamy spinach mingled with a spicy crunch of water chestnuts. “I called it!”
XENIAL SPINACH DIP
1 pound artisan bread bowl
1 pint Greek yogurt
3 ounces Neufchâtel cheese
10 ounces mayonnaise
8 ounce can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 package Swiss vegetable dry soup mix
10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and chopped
In a medium bowl, mix Greek yogurt, Neufchâtel cheese, and mayonnaise. Chill one hour. Add water chestnuts, package of Swiss vegetable dry soup mix, and uncooked spinach. Mix well. Chill one hour longer. Hollow out center of bread bowl. Fill with spinach dip. Serve with raw vegetables.