Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes! Every so often I succumb to my sweet tooth. At those times I admit, I throw caution to the wind. If I’m going to splurge on something sweet, I pull out all the stops. Hence, today’s feature includes a caramel pecan cookie dough crust, a sensuously satisfying vanilla cheesecake center, and a spectacular topping of sea salt caramel, chocolate chips, and sugared pecans that says, “Go all the way, you’re worth it!” Now you can be pampered as well.

TURTLE CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

16-ounce package refrigerated Pecan Turtle Cookie Dough, room temperature

16 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels

1/2 cup sugared pecans, chopped

1/3 cup caramel butterscotch ice cream topping

Coarse sea salt, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers to make 24 cupcakes. Cut each square portion of cookie in half. Place one section of dough in the bottom of each paper-lined muffin cup. Bake 12 minutes. Meanwhile, using a hand mixer and a medium-sized bowl, beat the Neufchâtel cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and sea salt for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed. Spoon 3 tablespoons of cheesecake mixture over each cookie crust. Bake 18 minutes longer. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack. Refrigerate Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes for one hour. Before serving, top each with mini chocolate chips and sugared pecans. Drizzle caramel butterscotch sauce over all. Garnish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

Ramen Noodle Shrimp and Egg

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Ramen Noodle Shrimp and Egg! So often, in college, a regular diet may consist of ramen noodles in lieu of the standardized meal plan. I remember buying ramen noodles by the case for my son during his freshman and sophomore years. Sure, it stretches the budget for other essentials, but in the long run if you can ditch the salt-laden seasoning packet and add a few veggies, it’ll hike the nutritional value with a burst of flavor as well. Try sautéed shrimp and leeks. (Frozen vegetables are also a cheap option because a little goes a long way.) Add red pepper flakes for spice and toasted sesame seeds for crunch. It transforms the dish into a main course meal.

RAMEN NOODLE SHRIMP AND EGG

Ingredients:

6-10 frozen precooked jumbo shrimp, thawed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1/2 cup leeks, sliced

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 package ramen noodles, discard seasoning packet

2 eggs, soft-boiled and cut in half

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Sesame oil, to taste

Garlic and onion chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Warm one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add jumbo shrimp. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Turn to coat both sides. Sauté shrimp 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Warm one more tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Add minced garlic, minced ginger, and sliced leeks. Stir for one minute. Add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add ramen noodles. Using a fork, break noodles apart after 2 minutes. When done, transfer noodles to two soup bowls. Divide the broth mixture between them. Add sautéed shrimp and sift-boiled eggs. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Drizzle with sesame oil. Garnish with garlic and onion chives. Serve immediately.

Pretzel Nuggets

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Pretzel Nuggets! Anyone who has been to an outlet mall, movie theater complex, or shopping center may have been seduced by the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked pretzels. How about those wonderful travel cups of soft buttery nuggets speared with a wooden pick? Who can resist? Especially with a side of gooey molten cheese? Here’s a shortcut to making a batch at home in your own kitchen. It’s all about portion control to keep it real. The next time you’re at the grocery, pick up a tube of refrigerated biscuit dough. You can thank me later.

PRETZEL NUGGETS

Ingredients:

1 tube refrigerated biscuit dough, 8-count

1/4 cup baking soda

1 egg, beaten

1-2 teaspoons Everything But Bagel Seasoning*

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut each biscuit slice into quarters. Roll each quarter into a ball. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a 2 1/2 quart pan. Slowly stir in baking soda. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Drop the biscuit dough rounds into the water. Avoid overcrowding by working in batches. Cook dough for one minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg to assist browning. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Finish with coarse sea salt. Bake 15-20 minutes until pretzel nuggets are golden brown. Repeat with remaining dough. Cool pretzel nuggets on a wire rack. Serve with cheese dip.

*To make your own Everything But Bagel Seasoning, click the link below.

https://snapshotsincursive.com/2018/07/17

Open-Faced Sammies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Open-Faced Sammie! The popularity of open-faced sandwiches has been brewing since the 15th century, when it was typically eaten for breakfast, lunch, snack, or supper. Although the layers have changed, butter or cheese remain the favorites as spreads, plus any combination of meat and vegetables. This is where your personal palate comes in. Or, perhaps whatever you have on hand in the refrigerator. Gardens abound with peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes. But don’t limit yourself there. I find avocados to be perfectly satisfying, especially with a crispy slab of applewood smoked bacon. Like I said, the choice is yours. One thing is for certain, it’s definitely easier to eat an open faced sandwich with a fork and knife.

OPEN-FACED SAMMIE

Ingredients:

2 slices pumpernickel rye bread, artisan-style

1 tablespoon sea salt butter

3 slices Swiss cheese, divided

3 slices bacon, cooked

1 ripe avocado, pitted and mashed

1 teaspoon lime juice

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tomatillo, chopped

1 tomato, sliced

1 egg, hard-boiled and chopped

1/8 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Instructions:

Toast artisan pumpernickel rye bread. Butter with sea salt. Place 1 1/2 slices of Swiss cheese on each piece of toast. Microwave on High 15 seconds to melt cheese. Layer with 1 1/2 slices crisp bacon. In a small bowl, combine mashed avocado, lime juice, and garlic powder. Mix well. Fold in chopped tomatillo. Spread over each sandwich. Place two tomato slices over avocado mixture. Spoon chopped hard-boiled egg pieces over tomatoes. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Makes two open-face sandwiches.

Fried Goat Cheese Rounds

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Fried Goat Cheese Rounds! Now you’re speaking my language. Something fried, something cheesy. And throw in a salad for good measure. Goat cheese, to begin with, is similar to feta but with a nuttier tang to it. Does that make sense? When it’s coated with a dusting of Panko breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning, then quick-fried in an olive oil-butter blend, the results are amazing. The outside is crunchy while the inside melts in your mouth. I prefer an oil and vinegar dressing, but certainly you can opt out for your favorite bottled dressing if you’re short on time. Either way, the cheese is the main attraction on a plate of mixed salad greens. You know you wanna try it. Permission granted.

FRIED GOAT CHEESE ROUNDS

Ingredients:

4-ounce log goat cheese, refrigerated

1 egg white, beaten

1/2 tablespoon water

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Mixed Salad Greens

Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 tablespoon olive oil, for frying

1 tablespoon butter, for frying

Ingredients for Dressing:

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon garlic wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions:

Cut the cold goat cheese into 1/2” thick slices. Whisk the egg white (save yolk) and water together in a small dish. On a sheet of waxed paper, combine Panko breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning. Dip each slice of cheese in the beaten egg white, then coat both sides with breadcrumbs. Place cheese rounds on a wax paper-lined platter. Refrigerate 15 minutes. To make the dressing, use a small food processor. Combine apple cider vinegar, garlic wine vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, and egg yolk. Blend for one minute. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the top of the lid. As it seeps through the holes, the vinaigrette will thicken. Toss the salad greens and tomato halves with enough dressing to moisten. Divide among salad plates. Warm 1/2 tablespoon olive oil plus one tablespoon butter over medium high heat. Do not scorch. Quickly fry the goat cheese rounds until golden brown on both sides. Do not melt the cheese inside. Top each salad with 2-3 fried goat cheese rounds. Serve immediately.

Quinoa Buckwheat Pancakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Quinoa Buckwheat Pancakes! Before you roll your eyes and walk away, let me assure you these pancakes are amazing. My husband had no idea the secret ingredient was quinoa. Honestly. Since I cooked the quinoa the day before, it blended nicely with the buckwheat batter resulting in moist and light pancakes. Better yet, there was no heavy feeling afterwards. You should try it.

QUINOA BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked quinoa

3/4 cup buckwheat pancake mix

1 egg plus 1 egg-white

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Fresh blueberries

Mint for garnish

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together quinoa and buckwheat pancake mix. In another bowl, whisk together egg, egg-white, melted butter, milk, vanilla extract, and maple syrup. Blend until smooth. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Mix well. Coat a hot griddle with butter, vegetable oil, or nonstick spray. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons. Cook 2 minutes until bubbles appear. Flip buckwheat cakes to cook underside for 2 minutes longer. Repeat with remaining batter. Reduce heat to medium to avoid burning, if necessary. Serve a stack of quinoa buckwheat pancakes with fresh blueberries, unsalted butter, and pure maple syrup. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Garnish with chopped mint.

Sensational Stuffing Balls

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Sensational Stuffing Balls! Two words: OMG, YUM! Seriously, this is the answer to a prayer when asked, “What is a good side dish to serve with meat?” Personally, I like the make-ahead option of having a bag of Stuffing Balls on hand in the freezer. I guess you could even serve them as an appetizer for your next gathering. They’re that tasty. As usual, you can opt out of the shortcut version provided here and make your own stuffing with 5 cups of cubed cornbread, wheat bread, or day-old white bread crumbs. You decide. Go crazy with garden herbs, diced apples, or skip the meat completely. I chose golf ball-size over baseball-size, but that’s totally up to you. After all, you’re the one who will reap the accolades.

SENSATIONAL STUFFING BALLS

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter

1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup celery, finely chopped

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 egg, well beaten

1/4 cup chicken broth

12.5 ounce can cooked chicken breast, drained and flaked

6-ounce box chicken stuffing mix

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with foil that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Do not scorch. Add chopped onion and celery. Sauté until soft. Add chopped parsley, black pepper, sea salt, poultry seasoning, beaten egg, chicken broth, flaked chicken, and dry stuffing mix. Stir well to combine. Shape into golf ball-size portions. Place stuffing balls on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes until set.

Quick-Mix Cheesy Grits

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Quick-Mix Cheesy Grits! Step away from the usual breakfast smoothie for an occasional southern meal of cheesy grits, eggs-over-easy, and crispy applewood bacon. Grits are not only quick and easy, they’re delicious and filling. This fail-safe method is spot on and can be whipped up in no time at all. It’s packed with enough protein to keep hunger pangs at bay. Save the weekends when you have more time for making grits from scratch.

QUICK-MIX CHEESY GRITS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup instant grits

2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Pat of butter, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine instant grits, water, and sea salt in a quart microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl. Stir. Microwave on HIGH 3 minutes or until thickened when stirred. Add cheese; stir. Cook 1 minute longer or until cheese melts into a creamy texture. Spoon cheesy grits into individual bowls and add a pat of butter to each bowl. Serves 4.

Egg Drop Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Egg Drop Soup! Treat yourself to a Chinese favorite. Using only a few items, you can prepare a festive bowl of chicken broth flavored with green onion, plus a hint of ginger spice. Check out the silky ribbons of beaten eggs and curly wonton strips. Isn’t it pretty? You can do this.

EGG DROP SOUP

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons corn starch

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups chicken broth

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup mushrooms, sliced and sautéed (optional)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 green onions

Fried wonton strips for garnish

Instructions:

In a 2-quart pan, combine corn starch, ground ginger, white pepper, and sea salt. Slowly pour chicken broth into the pan, stirring constantly to dissolve lumps. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. After two minutes, reduce heat to simmer. When the broth has thickened, place a whisk over the pan. Slowly pour beaten egg mixture over the whisk, swirling in a clockwise motion to create silky ribbons. Add sautéed mushrooms. Heat through. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle with droplets of sesame oil. Sprinkle green onion snips over soup. Garnish with fried wonton strips.