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.

Pan-Seared Tilapia

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Pan-Seared Tilapia! I don’t often “fry” foods, but once in awhile nothing else will do. The secret to pan-searing fish involves five key steps. First, make sure the skillet is nonstick or a trustworthy cast iron skillet. Secondly, choose a neutral-flavored oil which has a higher smoke point. You won’t need much, so it’s crucial to make sure the oil is not going to turn black from high heat. The third point, and this is just as important, make sure moisture is removed from the fish. If not, there is guaranteed to be steam-created soggy fish or dangerous grease splatters. Step Four: When the fish is placed in the pan, do not overcrowd it. The pieces should not touch each other at all. Finally, allow the fish to sear without moving it. This is how you get that beautiful crispy surface. Use a timer. Once the fillets are carefully flipped over, you’re almost done. By this time everyone in the house will be heading to the kitchen to discover what smells so incredibly good. Well Done, Grasshopper.

PAN-SEARED TILAPIA

Ingredients:

2 frozen tilapia fillets, thawed

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 lime, juice and zest

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pat butter, divided

Fresh dill, for garnish

Instructions:

Defrost fish fillets overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from package, pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. In a shallow dish, combine brown sugar, chili powder, kosher salt, garlic powder, and lime zest. Mix well. Warm vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Rub both sides of each fillet with the spice mixture. Cook tilapia fillets for 4 minutes. Carefully flip them over. Squeeze lime juice over fish in pan. Divide a pat of butter over the top of each fillet. Cook 3 minutes longer, or until opaque and flaky. Transfer pan-seared tilapia fillets to a platter. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh dill. Serve immediately.

No-Bake Lime Coconut Truffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: No-Bake Lime Coconut Truffles! Here’s a festive treat that satisfies the desire for something sweet enough without the overkill. This time white chocolate becomes the confectionery of choice. Instead of nuts, candied ginger and lime zest become key ingredients to complement the tropical tones of coconut. One might suggest these truffles resemble tiny snowballs, if not for the lime zest. To serve, simply place each truffle in a fluted foil or paper candy cup and arrange on a decorative platter. It promises to bring “Oohs” and “Ahhs” as a crowd-pleaser.

NO-BAKE LIME COCONUT TRUFFLES

Ingredients:

1 cup white chocolate chips

2 cups sweetened coconut, shredded

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, grated

1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice

Lime zest, for garnish

Instructions:

Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl on 50% for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until completely smooth. Mix in sweetened shredded coconut. Fold in crystallized ginger and lime zest. Add lime juice to the mixture. Form into 16 small mounds. Garnish with more lime zest. Chill until set.

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Guacamole Deviled Eggs! Tired of the same old thing? For years deviled eggs were served two ways: with real mayonnaise or without. Oh, sometimes you might’ve sprinkled a little paprika on top or added an olive slice. But not without criticism from the loudmouth brother-in-law who made sure everyone thought he was the know-it-all on every subject. I see you nodding your head. But now things are different. We have the freedom to be as creative in our cooking as we do in our lifestyle. If you are an avocado-lover, and could devour an entire bowl of guacamole in one sitting, then bookmark this recipe for now and for later. It’s worth it.

GUACAMOLE DEVILED EGGS

Ingredients:

6 large eggs, hard-boiled

1 ripe avocado, cut in half, put removed

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Crushed tortilla chips, for garnish

Instructions:

Peel the eggs; cut in half horizontally; remove yolks. Set aside. Scoop the flesh of the avocado into a bowl. Add lime juice, sea salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Mash together with a fork. Add crumbled egg yolks and mayonnaise. Mix until smooth. Scoop a spoonful of the avocado filling into the well of each hard-boiled egg white. Top with fresh cilantro. Garnish with crushed tortilla chips. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Turkey Taquitos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Turkey Taquitos! Small rolled-up tortillas that are filled with seasoned meat, shredded cheese, and Mexican spices might be the best alternative to a taco or a burrito. In lieu of deep frying, crispy crunchy results can happen in the oven. The smaller size tortilla makes the turkey taquito easy to hold and handy for dipping into red or green salsa. Some foodies make a meal out of these little corn tacos, while others find them perfect as a party snack. Better make a batch for yourself before you decide.

TURKEY TAQUITOS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup salsa

3 cups turkey, precooked and shredded

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix

1/2 teaspoon oregano, crushed

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

12 corn tortillas

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, and ranch dressing, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Pour salsa into a strainer. Allow juices to drip away. In a large bowl, combine shredded turkey, cheddar cheese, taco seasoning mix, crushed oregano, cumin powder, and garlic powder. Mix well. Warm vegetable oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Dip each tortilla into the oil and place on a plate. This makes the shell pliable. Reduce heat to low. Place 2 tablespoons filling on each tortilla. Roll tightly. Place in the iron skillet to “seal” for a few seconds. Then transfer taquito to a baking sheet, with seam facing down. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until crisp. Garnish with chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, and fresh cilantro. Drizzle with ranch dressing. Serve warm.