Layered Taco Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Layered Taco Dip! Wait no longer for a great appetizer. Set the tone for a social gathering with foods that say, “Let’s get this party started!”. A creamy dense layer of Mexican spices over a base of refried beans make the perfect foundation to hold the remaining ingredients. Not a fan of black olives? Simply choose green peppers or mushrooms instead. After all it’s your kitchen, so own it!

LAYERED TACO DIP

16-ounce can refried beans, traditional

16-ounce carton sour cream

8-ounce block cream cheese, room temperature

1 taco seasoning packet

1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

3 green onions, chopped

1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, drained

Tortilla chips or corn chips

Instructions:

Spread refried beans on the bottom layer of a serving platter. Combine sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning packet in a bowl. Mix until smooth. Spread over refried beans. Divide romaine lettuce evenly over cream cheese layer. Top with diced tomatoes and green onion snips. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese followed by Monterey Jack cheese over all. Finish with black olive slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate dip for at least one hour. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips.

Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese! I find this is seriously the best way to make macaroni and cheese for a crowd without all the fuss. It is so kid-friendly, in fact, you may discover you have an extra pair of helping hands without even asking. When using a slow cooker, the pasta softens as the sauce thickens into a hot, creamy, extra-cheesy youthful delight. Top it off with crushed potato chips for a heart-warming side dish.

CROCKPOT MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

1 pound cellentani pasta, also known as cavatappi, uncooked

4 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 cup potato chips, crushed

Instructions:

Spray the crockpot with nonstick oil. Pour the uncooked pasta into the bottom of the slow cooker. Layer the butter and cream cheese chunks over the pasta. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, milk, and cream. Mix well. Pour over pasta. Stir to blend. Spread pasta into an even layer, being sure to coat everything in sauce. Cover and cook on LOW for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Be sure to spread macaroni into one layer after stirring to keep pasta coated with sauce. When pasta is done, sprinkle shredded cheddar and pepper jack over all. Stir to combine. Replace cover and cook 10 minutes until cheese is creamy and melted. Sprinkle with crushed potato chips before serving.

Quest Fundido Poblano Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Quest Fundido Poblano Dip! When my garden harvested a nice crop of poblano peppers, I was already counting the days until I would take these mildly rich green peppers and transform them into an earthy Mexican favorite. Poblanos, you see, are a cross between a jalapeño and a bell pepper. Hot, but not a scorcher, if you know what I mean. You may be more familiar with them in a popular restaurant dish called a chile relleno or another known as chile poblano. Either way, they’re amazing.

QUEST FUNDIDO POBLANO DIP

Ingredients:

2-4 chili poblano peppers

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 ounces feta cheese

Corn tortilla chips

Instructions:

Heat an iron skillet on the stove over medium-high setting. Place poblano peppers into pan. Allow peppers to blister and blacken. Turn with tongs to allow even roasting. When the peppers are charred and soft, transfer them to a covered bowl to steam and cool, about 10-15 minutes. When able to handle, peel skins and discard. Cut poblano peppers into strips or chop into smaller pieces. Layer in the bottom of a casserole dish. Set aside. In a medium skillet, cook ground beef over medium-high heat. Break into small pieces, turning often until ground beef is browned and crumbled. Drain, if necessary. Add sea salt, cumin powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Mix well. Layer crumbled ground beef over poblano peppers. Top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese and feta cheese crumbles. Broil until cheeses are melted and golden brown in spots. Serve warm with corn 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.

X-tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: X-Tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer! Ever since I visited a popular Las Vegas restaurant, I’ve been looking for a cheese appetizer like this one. It’s not the traditional gooey soupy cheese dip you swipe tortilla chips through before gobbling down. The waiter set the iron skillet in front of us and said, “This is a cheese you need to use a knife and fork with. It’s not going to jump onto the chip.” Come to find out it was flambéed over an open fire in the kitchen. Wow! And they used tequila to ignite it. I wish I could tell you that’s what I did here, but sorry, “no comprendo”. Instead I baked it at a high temperature and dredged it through a spicy honey. Show compassion. I tried.

X-TRA CHEESE, PLEASE, APPETIZER

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted

1 yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey

1 teaspoon sriracha

1 teaspoon garlic habanero sauce

2 tablespoons ranch dressing

Chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 475°. Using a 10” iron skillet, warm butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and kosher salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until onions are soft and golden brown. Add Monterey Jack cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Mix thoroughly with onions. To make the spicy honey, in a microwave-safe dish combine raw Tupelo honey, sriracha, and garlic habanero sauce. Stir well. Microwave on High for 30 seconds. Stir again. Set aside. Transfer cheese-filled iron skillet to the oven. Bake 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Turn oven setting to High on Broil. Allow dark spots to appear on the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully as this happens very quickly. Remove skillet from oven. Drizzle with spicy honey and ranch dressing. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with tortilla chips.