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.

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.

Mango Rice Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Mango Rice Pudding! One of my fondest childhood memories is eating cinnamon sugared rice pudding warm from the stove. It’s funny how we associate traditional recipes with comfort food. Being a child of the ‘50s, it was the norm to have dessert with supper every night. ‘Course we also played outside till after dark. Sometimes it was “Kick the Can”, “Capture the Flag”, “Red Rover”, or “Spud”. I think my favorite was the neighborhood themed, “Boys Chase the Girls”. Being a tomboy who could run like the wind, I never did get caught. After all, who wants to be kissed by one of their brothers?!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sweet rice

1 1/2 cups half milk and half cream

1 cup whole milk

1 cup water

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cinnamon sticks

3 mangoes; peeled, diced, and cubed

Zest of 1 lime

Pinch ground nutmeg

Cinnamon sugar, to taste

Instructions:

Using a rice cooker, add sweet rice, half and half, whole milk, water, evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon sticks to the removable pot. Close and lock the lid. Set to risotto function. Regulator knob must be set to “pressure”. Cook 18 minutes. Once the function is complete, use the natural release method to release pressure. Open the lid. Stir until the ingredients are all mixed together. Fold in half the chopped mangoes. To serve, spoon rice pudding into dessert bowls. Top with reserve mangoes and lime zest. Garnish with a sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon sugar.

Jicama Tortillas

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Jicama Tortillas! Jicama is another word for Mexican turnip or potato. Interesting, isn’t it? The flavor is sweet and starchy when eaten raw with a sprinkling of sea salt. Being Paleo-friendly, the jicama is popular as a low-carb, low-sugar nutritious snack. It may be available in your local supermarket’s produce department as a precut veggie that resembles French fries. In that case, simply squeeze a lime wedge over it before sprinkling with sea salt and chili powder. I understand it’s also available in “tortilla” packets. I wanted to make my own tortillas, so the large bulb was an easy choice. Peel, slice, and steam. There you have it; a miniature tortilla similar to a street taco in size. Add precooked shredded turkey, cheddar cheese, and a prepackaged salad kit. It’s a meal-in-a-snap, perfect for weeknights.

JICAMA TORTILLAS

Ingredients:

1 large jicama, peeled and sliced into thin discs

12-ounce bag Southwest Chopped Salad Kit, creamy cilantro dressing included

2 cups precooked shredded turkey, chicken, pork, or beef

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 lime, cut into wedges

Fresh cilantro for garnish

Instructions:

To make jicama tortillas, place sliced discs in a microwave-safe dish with two tablespoons water. Cover and microwave on High for 3 minutes. This turns them from brittle to flexible. Drain hot water; dab tortillas on paper towels, then return them to covered dish to cool. Set aside. Empty chopped salad mix into a bowl. Pour prepared cilantro salad dressing over all. Mix well. Set aside. For the meat mixture, combine orange juice, vinegar, butter, sea salt, oregano, garlic powder, and cumin powder in a large skillet. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add shredded meat. Stir together. Cook until moisture is absorbed, about 10 minutes. For a crispy finish, add 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Increase heat to medium-high setting. Let meat fry until browned and crispy on bottom. Remove from heat. Stir with a fork. Serve jicama tortillas with chopped salad, shredded meat, and cheddar cheese. Garnish with lime wedges and fresh cilantro.

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.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Jamaican Jerk Chicken! I admit, I tend to take the path of least resistance. By the time I decided I was making this dish for dinner, all I had on hand was frozen chicken. Solution: Slow-cooker to the rescue. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my crockpot? Honestly, some days I’d be lost without it. Not only is the chicken tender and moist, but the citrusy-sweet-spicy glaze made it a perfect accompaniment for steamed sticky rice. Win! Win!

JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN

Ingredients:

2-3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks

12 ounces nonalcoholic beer

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 cup puréed Habanero peppers

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons thyme

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons agave nectar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons natural honey

2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying

Instructions:

Place frozen chicken in crockpot. In a measuring cup add nonalcoholic beer, orange juice, lime juice, and Habanero purée. Stir to combine. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle with cinnamon, allspice, thyme, and garlic powder. Add soy sauce, agave nectar, kosher salt, and olive oil. Pour over meat. Cover and cook 4 hours on High setting. After chicken is cooked, using a tongs, carefully transfer meat to a platter. Chicken will be very tender. Transfer drippings to a heatproof bowl. Add red pepper flakes and honey. Mix well. On the stovetop, heat an iron skillet on medium-high. Add olive oil. Transfer the chicken to the skillet. Add half the marinade to the skillet. Cook until the skin is crispy and deep brown or charred in places. Turn chicken over and repeat, adding more marinade. Reduce heat and simmer the sauce to thicken, about 5 minutes longer. Brush over the chicken as it thickens.

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.

Urban Taco Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Urban Taco Pizza! If you’re caught between the Taco/Pizza dilemma of what to have for dinner, simply combine the two for a taste extravaganza. Everyone wins. By using a prepared crust, taco seasoning packet, and bottled salsa, dinner can be ready in as fast as 30 minutes. For the cooking enthusiast, I know you already have all the homemade ingredients on hand. Either way, time is valuable in a life of constant motion. Do yourself a favor and prepare a healthy option at home. It’s easy, delicious, and most of all kid-friendly!

URBAN TACO PIZZA

Ingredients:

1 prepared pizza crust, any variety

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 pound lean ground beef

1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix

1 cup salsa plus more for topping

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup Spring Mix salad greens

1-2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup slices black olives

Crushed tortilla chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a pizza pan with nonstick oil. Sprinkle cornmeal on pan. Cover with pizza dough. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. In a skillet, cook ground beef until crumbly. Add taco seasoning mix. Mix well. Cover pizza dough with 1 cup salsa. Layer ground beef mixture, spreading almost to the edge. Top with both cheeses. Bake 15-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is completely melted. Remove from oven. Top with mixed salad greens, chopped tomatoes, and sliced black olives. Spoon on more salsa, to taste.

Restaurant-Style Salsa

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Restaurant-Style Salsa! Everyone goes crazy over the slightly chunky and spicy kicked salsa served in your favorite Mexican restaurant. Now you can make it yourself and enjoy it at home. With a few key (and secret) ingredients, you’ll find yourself doing a “Mexican Hat Dance” just like a pro. Combine everything in a food processor, press a button, and GO! Do it now. You can thank me later.

RESTAURANT-STYLE SALSA

Ingredients:

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

10 ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies

1/4 cup onion

1 carrot, peeled

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1 jalapeño, stem removed

1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

Instructions:

Combine diced tomatoes, tomatoes and green chilies, onion, carrot, cilantro, and jalapeño in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is smooth, but still slightly thick. Add lime juice, kosher salt, garlic powder, and cumin powder. Pulse until completely mixed and consistency looks desirable. Pour into a sealed container. Refrigerate one hour to enhance flavors. Serve with warm tortilla chips.