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.

Street Tacos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Street Tacos! This is literally Cooking 101. I have been making tacos since I was 16 years old, before microwave ovens and gourmet kitchens were commonplace. My Aunt Gail, in Michigan, taught me the timeless secrets of a classic Mexican staple. First of all, you must use authentic yellow corn tortillas. Forget the box because you’re going to fry up the shells for freshness. It’s worth the effort, believe me.

STREET TACOS

Ingredients:

16-ounce package yellow corn tortillas

2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef, lean

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 green onions, snipped

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Shredded lettuce

Fresh cilantro

Pico de Gallo or salsa

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. Brown ground beef in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the beef is crumbly. Drain, if necessary. Season beef with garlic, cumin powder, onion powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add tortilla; cook 10 seconds per side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat until all tortillas have been fried. Reduce heat. One at a time, place a tortilla back into the skillet. Add 1-2 tablespoons ground beef mixture into each tortilla. Fold in half and place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all tortillas and ground beef are used. Warm in the oven until ready to serve. Assemble street tacos, per taste, with shredded lettuce, onion, cheese, cilantro, and Pico de Gallo.

Quesadilla Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Quesadilla Burger! Two layers of gooey melted cheese sandwiched inside a flour tortilla is just the beginning. Add an Angus beef patty butter-fried in an iron skillet and savor the aromas. Take a walk on the wild side by adding sliced jalapeño peppers for a little heat. After that, who cares? Go crazy with your favorite condiments. Anything goes!

QUESADILLA BURGER

Ingredients:

1 pound Angus ground beef

1 beef bouillon cube

1-2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 flour tortillas

1/4 wedge lettuce, shredded

1 medium tomato, sliced

1/2 red onion, sliced

1/4 cup pickled jalapeño peppers, sliced

Condiments to taste

Instructions:

In a small bowl, microwave water for 1 minute, 45 seconds. Dissolve bouillon cube. Add mixture to ground beef, working to incorporate. Form beef into 4 quarter pound patties. Refrigerate until ready to use. Preheat oven to 350°. Place tortillas to lay flat on a baking sheet. Divide cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese between four tortillas, stopping before the edges. Bake 4-5 minutes until cheese melts. Remove and set aside. Meanwhile, add butter to an iron skillet set on medium-high heat. Cook burger patties 3 minutes on one side. Flip and cook 3 minutes longer. Take one burger, insert into a cheesy tortilla, fold over, and place back into the skillet just until shell is golden, about one minute. Remove from skillet. Add lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeño peppers, and other condiments.

Surf ‘n Turf Lettuce Cups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Surf ‘n Turf Lettuce Cups! This is one of those freezer meals that you can throw together in a flash. Precooked frozen shrimp and leftover sirloin tip roast are the main attractions. By adding spices, fresh herbs, and a special dipping sauce, this hearty meal knocks it out of the park! The whole idea behind the lettuce cup is keeping it simple. You deserve all the praise!

SURF ‘N TURF LETTUCE CUPS

Ingredients:

1 pound frozen jumbo shrimp, precooked and thawed

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay Style seafood seasoning

1/4 teaspoon dill

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 pound sirloin tip roast, shredded

1/8 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb Blend

1 tablespoon Golden Mountain sauce

1/2 cup French Fried Onions

Boston Lettuce leaves

For Dipping Sauce:

6-8 dried peppers, sliced

1/4 teaspoon fried garlic

1 wedge of lime

1/2 teaspoon honey

2-4 tablespoons Golden Mountain Sauce

2-4 tablespoons fish sauce

Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Thaw shrimp according to package directions. Remove tails and discard. Dab shrimp with paper towels. In a deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add seafood seasoning, dill, and lime juice. Cook 1-2 minutes, turning once. Remove and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add roast beef to same skillet using pan drippings. Season with Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb blend and Golden Mountain sauce. Stir. Reduce to simmer until heated through and liquid is absorbed. Return shrimp to pan and gently combine with beef. Wash Boston Lettuce; separate leaves, being careful not to tear. Arrange lettuce in a bowl. Fill lettuce cups with shrimp and beef mixture. Garnish with French Fried Onions. Serve with Dipping Sauce, which can also be used as a dressing.

Iceberg Lettuce 7-Layer Salad in a Jar

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Iceberg Lettuce 7-Layer Salad in a Jar! I don’t know about you, but I think this is a perfect idea for taking a salad-on-the-go. Use whatever jars you have on hand, such as quart or pint canning jars or even jelly jars. You decide the portion size. As a “do-ahead” recipe, it’s also a time-saver. Simply layer all the ingredients, top them off with the yummy homemade dressing, and then pack a couple jars in your lunchbox or picnic basket. It’s ideal for sharing. Choose healthy!

ICEBERG LETTUCE 7-LAYER SALAD IN A JAR

Ingredients:

1 head lettuce, shredded

2-3 green onions, snipped

5 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 pound thick bacon, pan-fried and crumbled

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

3/4 cup frozen baby sweet peas, thawed and uncooked

Dressing:

2 cups mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sugar

Instructions:

Prepare each ingredient, as indicated. Set aside. This is the order the jars will be assembled beginning at the bottom: Lettuce, green onion, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese, and peas. To keep the layers even in the jar, use the handle of a wooden spoon to gently press the salad as you complete each layer. Mix together the mayonnaise and sugar. Divide evenly between the jars. Garnish with a few sprinkles of shredded cheese and crumbled bacon bits. Place a lid on each jar to secure. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. To serve, empty the jar onto a plate; mix in the dressing to moisten. Enjoy!

Kimchi Shrimp

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Kimchi Shrimp! Brace yourself for a wickedly sour Korean flavor with a crazy spicy kick. Some say it can be a bit salty, especially if you keep an eye on that sort of thing. Others notice the strong leaning toward fish, which is why I dove head first into this dish by adding naturally sweet shrimp, and of course, butter. Did you just do a double take? Stick around. You may end up on the hook.

KIMCHI SHRIMP

Ingredients:

1/2 cup prepared kimchi, chopped

1 pound frozen cooked jumbo shrimp, thawed

2-3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon ginger root, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Romaine lettuce leaves

Green onions, for garnish

Instructions:

Using a mini chopper, pulse the prepared kimchi into a paste. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the butter. Layer the shrimp in the pan. Add chopped ginger. Sprinkle with garlic powder and red pepper flakes. Cook shrimp for one minute, then flip over. Add the kimchi paste, stirring to coat shrimp. Cook 2-3 minutes longer. Serve over romaine lettuce leaves. Garnish 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.

Mandarin Orange Side Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Mandarin Orange Side Salad! Whenever I serve this colorful side salad to my guests, they rave about the dressing. I create my own version of infused garlic oil, but it can be purchased at your local grocery. Dark, leafy watercress can also be found at the area Farmers Market this time of year. A little bit goes a long way in adding a surprisingly light peppery taste. When partnered with oranges and tomatoes, it refreshes the palate for the next course. If you like a tastier and fresher alternative to an ordinary garden salad, give this one a whirl.

MANDARIN ORANGE SIDE SALAD

Ingredients:

1/2 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup watercress

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

18 mandarin orange segments

1/4 cup bacon pieces

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Instructions:

Divide the romaine lettuce, watercress, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, bacon, almonds, and cheese evenly between 6 salad bowls. Serve chilled with dressing. (See dressing recipe below.)

Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup garlic vegetable oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

Instructions:

Combine garlic vegetable oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, sea salt, dry mustard, and onion. Whisk well until blended. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Loaded Lettuce Cups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Loaded Lettuce Cups! Eating with your fingers is so much fun! Here’s an idea for supper that is not only kid-friendly, but has an Asian flair that adults adore. By toasting the rice and noodles in butter, it gives the food a nice crunchy taste complimented by sesame and soybean undertones. Add chicken and water chestnuts for a healthy meal. The mere fact that it’s all wrapped up in the soft, buttery Boston lettuce leaves make it an all-star hit!

LOADED LETTUCE CUPS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

1 cup instant white rice

1 1/2 cups fine home style noodles

10-ounce can chunk chicken breast, drained

14-ounce chicken broth

4 green onions, chopped

8-ounce can of slivered water chestnuts, drained

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup soybean seasoning sauce

Boston lettuce leaves

Instructions:

Melt butter in a deep skillet. Do not burn. Add white rice and thin noodles. Coat well. Cook them over medium heat 3-5 minutes, turning often until golden brown. Stir in chicken broth and chicken chunks. Cover. Simmer 15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Add chopped green onion with tops, water chestnuts, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and soybean seasoning sauce. Mix well and serve in Boston lettuce cups.