Flatbread Fiesta

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.

FLATBREAD FIESTA

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Lime Cilantro Dressing

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Wonton Nachos

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!

WONTON NACHOS

Ingredients:

12-ounce package of wonton wrappers

Nonstick oil

Sea salt

8-ounce package Mexican-style cheese, shredded

Toppings of choice

Salsa for dipping

Instructions:

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.

Jalapeño Cheesy Cups

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

Ingredients:

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

Cilantro, garnish

Instructions:

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.

Warm Feta Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Warm Feta Spread! At first glance you may think the hot pepper mixture is too flaming hot to eat. Peppers, after all, can be pretty spicy. Removing the seeds is half the battle. Still, the skin of a hot pepper contains oils which ignite the heat sensors in the mouth. All true. However, cheese acts as a natural fire extinguisher to diminish the heat factor, while promoting the amazing taste of peppers. Feta cheese contains milk, which is another component in reducing heat. Trust me, all together it works.

WARM FETA SPREAD

Ingredients:

8-ounce block feta cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 green hot pepper, sliced

1 habanero pepper, seeds removed and chopped

1 shallot, sliced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 ripe tomato, diced

Fresh tarragon for garnish

Assorted bagel chips and crackers

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place feta cheese block in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with crushed Herbes de Provence. Bake 15 minutes until cheese is soft. Meanwhile heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add green hot pepper slices, chopped habanero pepper, sliced shallots, and garlic powder. Cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove warmed feta cheese from oven. Top with diced tomatoes and hot pepper mixture. Garnish with fresh tarragon. Serve with assorted bagel chips and crackers.

Taqueria Guacamole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Taqueria Guacamole! Everyone eats out, that’s a fact. It gives us pleasure. Besides, it takes less energy than planning, shopping, and cooking at the end of the day. But have you ever had a taste for one of the vacay restaurant specials and wish you could make it yourself? Well, I do it all the time. That’s why I recreated a popular cantina menu item that takes guacamole to the next level.

TAQUERIA GUACAMOLE

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados; halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 green tomato, chopped

1 red tomato, chopped

1 tablespoon red onion, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, sliced

1 roasted red chili pepper, diced

Cilantro to garnish

Instructions:

In a medium mixing bowl, mash avocado chunks with a fork until thick and smooth. Sprinkle in lime juice, garlic powder, and sea salt. Fold in green tomato chunks and red tomato chunks. Transfer to a serving dish. Top with chopped red onion, jalapeño slices, and diced red chilies. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips.

Old Mexico Street Poppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Old Mexico Street Poppers! As the garden brings forth a bounty of jalapeños, variety becomes the spice of life. Stuffed with cheese and veggies makes sinking your teeth into this spicy popper feel like eating from a Mexican cobblestone street vendor in Puerto Vallarta. Anything goes! Give your taste buds an “old town” vacation and then go shopping afterwards!

OLD MEXICO STREET POPPERS

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, snipped

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 cup organic black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup sweet corn, whole kernel

1/3 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/8 teaspoon taco seasoning

12 jalapeño peppers, cut lengthwise and seeded

1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Spray with nonso like. Set aside. In a bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, onion salt, cumin powder, black beans, sweet corn, and Monterey Jack cheese. Mix well. Set aside. In another bowl, combine panko bread crumbs, Mexican cheese, melted butter, and taco seasoning. Mix well. Set aside. To prepare jalapeños, wear rubber gloves. Leaving the stem on, slice the upper third portion lengthwise. Discard top. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Divide filling evenly between jalapeños. Place on wire rack. Cover top of jalapeños with crumb topping. Press gently into cream cheese mixture. Bake 30-35 minutes or until tops are golden brown and jalapeños are tender. Garnish with cilantro. Serve warm.

Watermelon Salsa

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Watermelon Salsa! Want a conversation-starter? The next time you’re in a group, pose the simple question: “Do you eat watermelon WITH or WITHOUT a sprinkling of salt?” Then stand clear and let the debate begin. Some insist that a pinch of salt awakens the taste buds. Others believe it interferes with the natural sweetness. Me? I gotta tell you, I kinda prefer the whole sweet & salty thing. Like mixing buttered movie popcorn with kettle corn. But that’s another story.

WATERMELON SALSA

Ingredients:

1/4 pound seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into chunks

1 ripe peach, peeled, pit removed, and cut into chunks

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1-2 jalapeño peppers, stem removed, finely diced

Juice of 1 fresh lime

Raspberry Chipotle seasoned salt (optional)

Instructions:

Combine watermelon, peach, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño peppers. Gently toss all ingredients together. Squeeze fresh lime juice over all. Chill one hour. Before serving add a sprinkling of raspberry chipotle seasoned salt or have the shaker available as an option.

Jalapeño Spiced Green Beans

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Jalapeño Spiced Green Beans! I must admit, the first time I tasted these incredible green beans, it was as a garnish in a Canadian Caesar Cocktail (a seafood version of America’s Bloody Mary). Talk about a natural kick of spice! Oh. My. Gosh! If you don’t mind a little kick of heat and like green beans, you must try these. Toss them into a garden salad, layer them inside a grilled cheese sandwich, top them on deviled eggs, pair them with shrimp cocktail. Do you see where this is going? It’s extreme, it’s appetizing, and it’s a party in your mouth.

JALAPEÑO SPICED GREEN BEANS

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

5 jalapeño peppers, sliced and stems discarded

1 pound fresh green beans, stems snipped and snapped to fit in the jars.

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan, combine garlic cloves, apple cider vinegar, water, agave nectar, and kosher salt. Heat to boiling. Stir until dissolved. As it continues boiling, add the slices jalapeños. Keep them submerged under the pickling liquid. Remove the pan from the heat. Set aside for 10-15 minutes. Have ready 1-2 clean, sterilized pint jars. Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add the green beans. Cook until the beans begin to turn bright green, 3-4 minutes. Drain the pan. Rinse immediately with cold water; place green beans in an ice bath for 10 minutes. Drain well. Divide the green beans between the jars. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the jalapeños and garlic cloves to the green beans. Ladle the pickling juices over top until the jars are filled. Discard any leftover brine. Let cool at room temperature before securing lids. Store in refrigerator at least 24 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator.