Salad on a Fork

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Salad on a Fork! Try something different the next time you throw a party. Instead of serving an ordinary relish tray, choose interesting veggies to spear on a salad fork. Your guests will be so intrigued, they won’t realize they’ve chosen a salad bite over a brownie. Cherry tomatoes, crunchy romaine, and garden green beans make preparation easy. Offer two or three salad dressings for topping things off. Portions are bite-sized to avoid waste. Forks stand upended in a bowl or a pitcher. I happened to have an antique ice bucket that worked out nicely. Variety creates a beautiful presentation, so include baby carrots, snow peas, and perhaps a piece of bacon. Just think of it as a “conversation starter”.

SALAD ON A FORK

Ingredients:

1 bunch romaine lettuce

1 head iceberg lettuce

10.5 ounces cherry tomatoes

1/2 pound fresh green beans

Prepared salad dressings

Salad forks

Instructions:

Wash and pat dry lettuce, tomatoes, and green beans. Tear or cut lettuce leaves into bite-sized portions. Spear several leaves onto a salad fork. Add a green bean. Crown with a cherry tomato. Stand the forks upright in a bowl. Repeat steps until all the forks are used and the bowl is filled. Squeeze bottles of 2-3 prepared salad dressings make self-serve options available and entertaining.

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.

Orzo Shrimp Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Orzo Shrimp Salad! In case you did a double-take, this is not a rice dish. Orzo, for those who are new to its origin, is a rice-shaped pasta popular in Italy. Most often it is used in soups, chilled salads, and pasta recipes. It is not gluten-free, if that is important to you. Because of its unique texture, the flavor of orzo bonds wonderfully with olive oil or butter and fresh herbs. Make it early in the day or right before supper. Either way, the taste is incredible with garden fresh veggies and cocktail shrimp. A little orzo goes a long way.

ORZO SHRIMP SALAD

Ingredients:

1/4 cup lemon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup uncooked orzo

1/2 pound precooked jumbo cocktail shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dill

1/2 teaspoon tarragon leaves, chopped

4 ounces asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed

1/2 cup frozen English peas, thawed

Lemon slices for garnish

Instructions:

For dressing, whisk together lemon olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, kosher salt, and black pepper. Set aside. Prepare orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Transfer to a platter and cool 10 minutes to room temperature. In a skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Remove shells from shrimp tails. Place shrimp in a single layer in the skillet. Sprinkle with dill and tarragon. Lightly brown, turning once. Reduce heat to keep from burning. Remove from stove. Let shrimp cool. Meanwhile, in a steamer basket, bring water to a boil. Add asparagus, sugar snap peas, and English peas. Cook 2 minutes until bright green and tender crisp. Immediately transfer vegetables to an ice bath. Drain. Toss together shrimp and vegetables with orzo. Drizzle with lemon dressing, to taste. Toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Garnish with lemon slices.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Buffalo Chicken Pizza! Combine two bar and grill favorites to equal one outstanding supper on game night. From the creamy ranch dressing slathered over a crispy olive oil crust to the tender rotisserie chicken dotted with robust bleu cheese and crunchy celery, you will not believe your taste buds. This is good stuff. Decide how high you want to crank up the heat by using spicy sriracha sauce and red pepper flakes. Go wingless for a sensational show-stopper that will leave everyone cheering.

BUFFALO CHICKEN PIZZA

Ingredients:

1 prepared naan, flatbread, or pizza crust

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4-1/3 cup ranch salad dressing

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup deli-roasted chicken, shredded

1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles

1/2 cup chopped celery

2-3 tablespoons sriracha sauce

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush both sides of a prepared pizza crust. Sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom only. Sprinkle garlic powder over top. Bake seasoned crust on a pizza stone for 5 minutes. Carefully remove from oven. Spread ranch salad dressing evenly over top crust. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Layer on shredded chicken. Dot with bleu cheese crumbles. Bake 10 minutes longer. Arrange chopped celery over pizza. Drizzle with sriracha sauce. Garnish with red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

Hungry Man Potato Skins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Hungry Man Potato Skins! Shrug off that old myth about ditching potato skins because they’re high in carbohydrates and low in nutrition. My grandma used to say “if you’re gonna eat the skin, you may as well eat a handful of dirt!”. Thank goodness times have changed and we’ve learned that the skin of the potato is loaded with calcium, iron, and fiber. When baking instead of frying, the nutritional value gets kicked up a notch. Now that you’re on a roll, go ahead and add toppings like fresh broccoli, bacon, and cheese. Whaaat? Hear me out. By choosing small russet potatoes, the calories are drastically reduced. One piece of bacon is divided over four skins, just enough for flavor. And reduced-fat cheddar cheese is a good choice, one you’ll barely notice in taste. When it’s all said and done, two potato skins are about 200 calories. Not bad.

HUNGRY MAN POTATO SKINS

Ingredients:

2 small russet potatoes, washed and patted dry

1/2 cup broccoli florets

1 strip thick bacon, precooked

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup panko crumbs

Ranch dressing, for dipping sauce

Green onion, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Pierce each potato for steam to escape during baking. Lightly spray potatoes with nonstick oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender, about one hour. Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Place broccoli florets into a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle with droplets of water, and microwave on High for one minute. Set aside. If you need to cook bacon, place one strip of bacon on a paper towel-lined plate. Cover with another paper towel. Microwave on High for two minutes. Remove and set aside. When cool enough to handle, crumble into small pieces. For potato skins, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out flesh leaving a shell 1/4” thick. Reserve potato flesh for another use. Brush around the rim of potato shells with olive oil. Place skins upright on a baking sheet. Broil in oven on High for one minute. Remove to fill. In a bowl, combine broccoli florets, cheddar cheese, and bacon crumbles. Divide broccoli mixture evenly between potato shells. In a small pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add panko crumbs, stirring often until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle over loaded potato skins. Return to oven and bake at 400° until cheese is bubbly and topping is crisp, about 15 minutes. Serve with ranch dressing garnished with green onion snips.

Bird’s Nest Breakfast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Bird’s Nest Breakfast! For something fun, take an ordinary poached egg, lay it on a bed of greens, and turn it into a festive meal nestled in a coffeehouse cup. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But you like toast, you say. No worries, it’s in there. Think about this attractive alternative when serving a mid-morning brunch for two or breakfast in bed on the weekend. This is how we cruise through life.

BIRD’S NEST BREAKFAST

Ingredients:

4 large romaine lettuce leaves, washed*

2 slices baguette bread, toasted and buttered

2 extra large eggs, poached or fried sunny-side up

2 tablespoons Caesar salad dressing

Red pepper flakes, for garnish

Instructions:

Gently tear romaine lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces and divide between two large coffeehouse cups. Toast artisan bread, butter, and cut into cubes. Add to each lettuce cup. Gently toss. Poach or fry two eggs, leaving the centers slightly soft. Transfer one egg to each bowl. Drizzle with Caesar salad dressing. Garnish with red pepper flakes. Enjoy!

*Add alfalfa sprouts, if available.

Vidalia Onion Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Vidalia Onion Dressing! Have you ever loved the taste of a homemade salad dressing so much you wish it could be more? Well, consider this. Marinades are like a secret step to making meat taste flavorful and tender. By planning a little bit in advance, you can pour this dressing over chicken breasts to marinate one hour before grilling or baking. The dressing actually saturates the meat in a way that benefits the flavoring with a sweet onion taste. When everyone gathers around the table and raves about the extraordinary taste of ordinary chicken, just shrug your shoulders and say, “Its my grandma’s family secret.”

VIDALIA ONION DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1 medium Vidalia onion, grated

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup vinegar

Jalapeño sliced, pickled

Instructions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, sea salt, dry mustard, and celery seed. Stir. Add grated Vidalia onion, vegetable oil, and vinegar. Heat until sugar is melted, stirring constantly. Add jalapeño slices. Cool and refrigerate for one hour. Serve as a dressing over toasted salad.

Jalapeño Lime Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Jalapeño Lime Dressing! I’m telling you, flavored vinegars and olive oils make my life a breeze. Think about it. If you could open a bottle of zesty lime balsamic vinegar with spicy jalapeños, would you be tempted to splash it into a pitcher of margaritas? Don’t laugh. What if you turned it into a marinade with lime olive oil for a plate of grilled shrimp tacos? It’s sweet, slightly tart, and adds a zing of jalapeño heat to get the blood flowing. Whether you plan a garden salad, steamed rice, or roasted vegetables on the menu tonight, think outside the box with exotic pairings.

JALAPEÑO LIME DRESSING

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon jalapeño lime balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup lime olive oil

1 tablespoon pickled jalapeño pepper slices

Instructions:

In a blender, combine fresh parsley, cilantro leaves, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, Dijon mustard, jalapeño lime balsamic vinegar, and lime olive oil. Pulse until all ingredients are finely minced and dressing has emulsified. Transfer to a jar. Add sliced jalapeños. Cover. Refrigerate one hour.

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.