El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia

Dining Outside the Home: El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia! You know you’ve hit the jackpot when it’s BOGO on a Saturday night. That translates to buy one margarita, get one free, no matter what brand of tequila you choose. A nice Mexican tequila that is 100% pure de agave goes down smooth and perfect. The cocktail was crisp and citrusy from a squeeze of fresh lime, rather than green and sugar-laden. Perhaps that’s their secret. Being in the mood for a salad did not disappoint. The Grilled Shrimp Salad was, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had. There must have been at least a dozen perfectly-seasoned grilled shrimp served in a crispy flour tortilla shell. Refried beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced avocado, cheese and sour cream turned this simple salad into a meal-in-a-bowl. Our waitress, Jasmin, was very accommodating in meeting our needs. Great food is a must, but customer service makes it memorable.

Pulled Pork Barbecue Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Pulled Pork BBQ Flatbread! I love prepared flatbreads. In fact, I always pick up a couple from my grocer’s deli to keep on hand. The possibilities are endless for a quick meal without scrambling for the fast-food drive-through. I freeze containers of leftover meats that were slow-cooked earlier, so as to have healthy options at home, such as today’s pork tenderloin. If need be, there are prepackaged resources at your local grocery store as well. Being flexible with time-saving choices is always a “Win”, in my opinion.

PULLED PORK BBQ FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 prepared flatbread

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/2 cup BBQ sauce, any variety

1 pound pork tenderloin, cooked and shredded

2 eggs

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

Dash of white pepper

1/2 cup Spring Mix, chopped

1 green onion, snipped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush flatbread with olive oil on both sides; sprinkle bottom with cornmeal. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spoon BBQ sauce evenly over flatbread. Cover all with shredded pork. Create a “well” for each egg. Gently crack an egg into each “well”. Sprinkle eggs with seasoned salt and white pepper. Bake 8-10 minutes until eggs are set. If the crust becomes too brown, cover it with foil, leaving the egg portion uncovered. When eggs are cooked, remove from oven. Add chopped Spring Mix and green onion snips.

Cobb Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Sunshine Eats: Cobb Salad! Some days the dinner option is as plain as the nose on my face. Leftover rotisserie chicken becomes the star attraction. Using seven of your favorite ingredients, which you probably already have on hand, this time-saving classic is the perfect solution to that mundane question, “What’s for dinner?” Go easy on yourself and build a Cobb Salad on a platter for show-stopping presentation.

COBB SALAD

Ingredients:

Bag of Spring Mix Salad Greens

3 cups chicken, precooked and shredded

3 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

6 slices bacon, crispy and crumbled

1-2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced

8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup Bleu cheese crumbles

Salad Dressings of choice

Instructions:

Choose individual salad plates or a serving platter. Arrange salad greens as the base. Working from the left side of the plate to the right, arrange shredded chicken from top to bottom. Next arrange chopped egg, crumbled bacon, diced avocado, and tomato halves, ending with Bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle with salad dressing of choice and serve.

Kielbasa Grilled Romaine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Kielbasa Grilled Romaine! When the sun comes out and the wind dies down, it’s not unusual to see Northerners uncover the gas grill for a momentary glimpse of Summer. Everyone needs a reprieve from the winter doldrums, right? Nothing works better than a protein-rich complex carbohydrate meal, in my opinion. And grilled foods definitely lift the mood like a breath of fresh air. Sound painless? It pretty much is. Even the birds are chirping louder than usual.

KIELBASA GRILLED ROMAINE

Ingredients:

1 pound kielbasa sausage link

2 romaine hearts

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

4 ounces parmesan cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Remove kielbasa sausage link from package. Rinse and pat dry. Transfer to a platter. Rinse romaine lettuce hearts. Pat dry. Trim the end stalks, leaving enough to keep the bunches intact. Transfer to a platter. In a small dish, combine olive oil, seasoned salt, garlic and herb seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Using a silicone brush, coat the leaves of the romaine hearts, inside and out with the olive mixture. Halve the cherry tomatoes; place in a serving bowl. Preheat the outdoor grill on High setting. Using tongs, transfer the seasoned romaine lettuce hearts directly to the grill. Repeat with kielbasa sausage link. Grill for 3 minutes. Flip the romaine lettuce and grill 2 minutes longer. Rotate the kielbasa sausage for even browning. Remove all to clean platters. To serve, place charred romaine lettuce hearts on a dinner plate. Divide the kielbasa sausage between plates. Add cherry tomato halves. Top with crumbled parmesan cheese. Drizzle with remaining olive oil mixture. Serve immediately.

Frisée Blueberry Pistachio Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Frisée Blueberry Pistachio Salad! Have you tried frisée lately? This member of the lettuce family offers a slightly bitter bite, which is why it’s a good idea to pair it with some form of sweetened fruit. The appealing curlicue tendrils have a crunchy texture as well as upstanding hardiness. That factor alone is important since it translates to the ability to withstand a creamy dressing without turning it to mush. Should one desire, adding a robust bleu cheese, blackened bacon strip, or scattering salty capers among the sturdy leaves, permits a heavier dressing in short order. So you see, the question remains: to frisée or not to frisée.

FRISÉE BLUEBERRY PISTACHIO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 bunch frisée, stems trimmed, leaves gently torn

2-3 radishes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon red onion, slivers

1/4 cup blueberries

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions:

Divide salad plates with frisée. Arrange sliced radishes, red onion slivers, blueberries, and tarragon leaves around frisée leaves. In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and sugar. Slowly, whisk in olive oil. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Drizzle dressing over salads; tossing to coat. Sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts. Serve chilled.

German Pretzel Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: German Pretzel Burger! One glance at this plate will have you snapping your head back in a double-take. What appears to be a classic burger suddenly reminds you of something else. Could it be the bun? The “x” on top is a dead giveaway as well as the deeply browned glossy finish. That’s because it’s a pretzel bun. Oktoberfest wouldn’t be the same without these signature foods: soft pretzels, aromatic sauerkraut, buttery cheese, and tepid beer. Are you up for the culinary adventure? Climb aboard the passenger train. Que Será, Será…Whatever will be, will be.

GERMAN PRETZEL BURGER

Ingredients:

4 quarter-pound frozen ground beef patties, thawed

4 slices Swiss cheese

4 pretzel burger buns, sliced

4 tablespoons butter

14-ounce can shredded sauerkraut, drained

4 leaves romaine lettuce

Dijon mustard, as condiment

Instructions:

Prepare hamburger patties per package directions. Top with a slice of Swiss cheese. Set aside. Butter tops and bottoms of pretzel buns. Place buttered side down in a warmed iron skillet over medium heat. Heat until buns are toasted golden brown. Warm sauerkraut in a covered microwave-safe dish for 1 minute on High. To assemble burgers, place a romaine lettuce leaf on the bottom bun. Transfer a burger with Swiss cheese to place over lettuce. Spoon sauerkraut on top. Season with Dijon mustard. Replace lid of pretzel bun. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Enjoy!

Strawberries Stuffed With Chicken Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Strawberries Stuffed with Chicken Salad! Has anyone noticed the ginormous strawberries lately? I was beginning to wonder if I fell asleep for a few years, like Rip Van Winkle, and awoke to discover that gigantic plants have overrun the earth. Ordinarily I’d serve chicken salad on a cantaloupe wedge, but guess who has competition now. May the better fruit win.

STRAWBERRIES STUFFED WITH CHICKEN SALAD

Ingredients:

2 romaine lettuce leaves, washed

2 extra-large strawberries, washed

1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded

2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped

1 tablespoon almonds, chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Mint leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Place romaine lettuce leaves on two salad plates. Set aside. Carefully slice strawberries, creating a pinwheel, without cutting through the bottom. Transfer each strawberry to the prepared salad plate. In a bowl, combine shredded chicken, chopped celery, almond pieces, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Fill each strawberry pinwheel with chicken salad. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve chilled.

Zesty Citrus Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Zesty Citrus Salad! “If you build it, they will come.” That familiar quote may spark a flicker of remembrance from a popular movie years ago, Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner was the actor who had an idea and went with it. Cooking is like that, in my opinion. For example, build a better salad. It’s pretty simple, actually. Choose garden greens for the foundation, layer on fruits or vegetables for flavor, toss in some crunchy nuts, and slather on the sauce to dress it up. Of course, you can include cheese, meat, and eggs to bulk it up into a meal if you’d like. May as well go ahead and make your own salad dressings. There’s no comparison; being naturally better than bottled, they serve nicely as dips if you have any leftover. No promises on that note, because they’re that good.

ZESTY CITRUS SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups lettuce, gently torn

1/4 cup celery leaves

1 naval orange, segments cut into thirds

6 strawberries, quartered

2 tablespoons red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons almonds, sliced

Ingredients for Dressing:

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Tupelo honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Dash sriracha

Instructions:

Place torn lettuce into salad bowls. Divide celery leaves between them. Arrange the orange segments, quartered strawberries, and red onion slices. Scatter almonds over all. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator. To combine dressing, whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Tupelo honey, Dijon mustard, toasted sesame seeds, and dash of sriracha sauce. Mix well. Drizzle over salad before serving.

Tortilla Roll-Ups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Tortilla Roll-ups! Bite-size portions have a way of making a pinwheel platter into an appetizing celebration. The variations are endless, mostly depending on what you have on hand or the cravings that come knocking at your door. Make ahead recipes are popular, and convenient, as time-saving options when schedules become a bit blurry. Kids smile and giggle knowing this in one time eating with your fingers is allowed without scolding or frowns from the adults in the room. Think school lunchbox treats, picnic basket munchies, game day favorites, or holiday gatherings. Anything goes!

TORTILLA ROLL-UPS

Ingredients:

2 flour tortillas

4 tablespoons thousand island salad dressing, prepared

2 romaine lettuce leaves, washed and patted dry

4 slices deli-sliced honey ham

2 slices provolone cheese

2-3 radishes, sliced thin

Instructions:

Lay out the flour tortillas in a work space. Spread each tortilla with thousand island salad dressing. Next, place the lettuce leaves over the mixture. Layer the ham and cheese slices evenly for easier rolling. Finally, divide the thinly sliced radishes between them. Starting at one end, slowly roll the tortilla as tight as possible. Hint: you can tie them with baker’s twine to keep them snug. Refrigerate for two hours, or overnight, before slicing into 1/2” pinwheels. Enjoy!