Dining Outside the Home: Alice Sweetwater’s Bar & Grille in Naples, Florida! When you’re in the mood for a fabulous eatery defined by fresh ingredients, flavorful cocktails, and decades-old cooking with a modern twist, look no further. Ask for seating on the outdoor deck; it’s worth the wait if you enjoy being on the edge of a party. Start off with a salt-rimmed Jalapeño Margarita. Sip it slow or you may find yourself seeing pink flamingos. “Take a walk on the water side!” Lobstah-lovers will certainly appreciate the Lobster BLT sammie on a grilled baguette with crunchy fries and creamy coleslaw. If you are a foodie looking for a variety of tasty dishes, plus an inviting vibe beckoning locals and tourists alike, then give Alice Sweetwater’s a try.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Desperado Dinner Nachos! The title says it all. I had been running all day long from this to that when I finally returned home to realize I had made no plans for supper. Going back out was not an option. So things got a little desperate. Thank goodness I had some leftover roasted turkey (chicken would work just fine) plus a half a bag of tortilla chips. The rest of the toppings were a given. So you see, sometimes making mediocre effort will suffice, especially if you make it look downright delicious!
DESPERADO DINNER NACHOS
1/2 bag corn tortilla chips
2 cups roasted turkey or rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 cups Mexican-blend cheese, shredded
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cup pickled jalapeños, sliced
2-3 green onions, snipped
Greek yogurt or Sour cream
Preheat the oven to 400°. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. In a single layer, line the baking sheet with tortilla chips, covering every space. Sprinkle on shredded cheese, reserving a little as a final sprinkling. Arrange roasted meat over cheese layer. Top with chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, and green onion snips. Toss on the remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve nachos with yogurt and salsa to taste.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Waffle-Doodle-Doo! The million dollar question of the day is “Why are chicken and waffles so popular?” Could it be the crispy moist chicken tenders, or the fluffy golden-edge waffle, or the sweet creamy butter? Maybe. Perhaps it’s the robust taste of natural maple syrup. That’s good, too. Personally, I like the explosive kick of jalapeño and the bite of cilantro mixed in. Sliced apple sticks are a bonus. No matter your preference, it’s kind of a thing. Go the easy route like I did. Pick up an order of breaded chicken tenders from your favorite food joint. Since my husband is a master on the waffle iron, he does that part. Make extra waffles; they freeze well. You can thank me later. Pull it all together for a unique flavor that works for breakfast, weekend brunch, or late night craving.
4 chicken tenders, precooked
2 buttermilk or Belgian-style frozen waffles
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons jalapeño pepper jelly
1 Gala apple, cored and sliced into matchsticks
Butter, room temperature
Warm chicken tenders in a 350° oven while waffles are being made in the waffle iron or heated in a toaster to desired crispness. Combine maple syrup and jalapeño jelly in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on High in 15-second intervals. Stir together until jelly is melted and the flavors are blended. Core the apple, then slice into matchsticks. For presentation, cut waffles into triangles to form a “tent”. Brush waffles with softened butter. Drizzle with jalapeño maple syrup. Arrange chicken tenders. Add apples. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Flatbread Fiesta! Do you ever tire of the same old pizza choices? I get in a rut the same way everyone else does. About that time I stand in front of the freezer, door open, peering into its contents searching for ideas to try something extraordinary. Sure, I’m the one buying the groceries (and should know what’s in the house) but that’s when I surprise myself with unexpected specials. Chorizo is one of those impulse items that make it into the cart. I often fry it up, crumble it for meals later on, label it, and then store it in the freezer for another day. It’s at times like this I pat myself on the back with congratulations for having such foresight.
1 naan flatbread
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup chunky salsa, prepared
1 cup Mexican cheeses, shredded
1/2 cup cooked chorizo, drained and crumbled
2 tablespoons yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons green chilies, chopped
2 tablespoons jalapeño peppers, chopped
Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. Rub olive oil on bottom of flatbread. Spread with cornmeal, pressing into the dough. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Flip over and place this side down on prepared baking sheet. Brush top with remaining olive oil. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove flatbread from oven. Carefully spoon chunky salsa over flatbread, spreading to edges. Layer Mexican cheeses over top. Divide cooked and crumbled chorizo over salsa. Finish layering with chopped onions, green chilies, and jalapeño peppers. Bake 15 minutes longer to melt the cheeses for a nice crispy crust. Remove flatbread from oven. Cool slightly before using a pizza cutter. Serve with a tossed garden salad.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Lime Cilantro Dressing! The first time I tasted this unique dressing with a southwestern kick, I wanted to put down my fork and literally guzzle it by the spoonful. Then again, I’m a fan of fresh cilantro. It’s one of those herbs, I’ve discovered, people either love it or hate it. If you can’t handle it….well, I’ll see you tomorrow when I bake something sweet and decadent. For those who choose to remain, grab a spoon and hang on!
LIME CILANTRO DRESSING
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and cut in quarters
1 garlic clove
3/4 teaspoon fresh ginger root
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup natural honey
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine the jalapeño pepper, garlic clove, and ginger root into a mini chopper. Pulse until finely chopped. Add lime juice, natural honey, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. Pulse to mix. Add cilantro leaves. Pulse a little longer to blend. With the mini chopper on Low, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing until it is completely blended. It is now ready to serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Wonton Nachos! Sounds strange, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought the first time I glanced around the restaurant where couples sat munching away on the mountain of gooey cheese and triangular chips. Fusion foods combine different cultures. There are no rules and this proves it. Take Asian wonton wrappers and blend them with Mexican seasonings and salsa for a perfect pairing. Because wonton wrappers are paper thin dough, they bake up in a matter of minutes. Don’t forget the sprinkling of sea salt. By the time the margaritas are mixed, everything is ready to be assembled onto a platter of spicy Wonton Nachos that encourage conversation. Now put down your cell phones and eat!
12-ounce package of wonton wrappers
8-ounce package Mexican-style cheese, shredded
Toppings of choice
Salsa for dipping
Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside. Cut each wonton wrapper in half diagonally, or quarters if you desire smaller chips. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Coat the tops with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 10 minutes, or until crispy. Turn for even browning. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Repeat until all chips have been made. To make nachos, arrange chips in an ovenproof dish. Add Mexican cheese and toppings of choice. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with salsa.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Jalapeño Cheesy Cups! Fusion foods are the rage right now. Restaurant and Food Truck menus are the trendsetters that carry over into our home kitchens. Fusion foods blend a couple cultures into a balanced dish with copacetic results. Take this one, for instance. Asian wonton meets Mexican spice. You get the gooey cheese with spicy meat perfectly portable in a crispy cup. Pick one up and walk around. These handheld appetizers don’t last long. Forgot a napkin? No worries. Lick your fingers and meander back to the buffet line to snag another.
JALAPEÑO CHEESY CUPS
24 wonton wrappers
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, chopped
2 tablespoons bacon bits
2 tablespoons cooked chorizo, crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Jalapeño slices, garnish
Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. Place 2 wonton wrappers in each cup. Bake 4 minutes. Remove muffin tin from oven. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, chopped jalapeños, bacon bits, crumbled chorizo, and green onions. Mix well. Divide cheese mixture into cups. Top with cheddar cheese. Finish with jalapeño slices. Bake 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Wontons should appear golden brown and slightly crispy. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve warm.