What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: OMG Nachos! The first time I heard about putting tator tots on nachos, I thought, “What’s up with that?”. Curiosity got the better of me. So I tried it and OMG Nachos were born! If you like cheese and potatoes, you’re going to love, love, love this! I pulled it all together in an iron skillet by arranging one layer of corn tortilla chips on the bottom and then around the edge of the pan to form a bowl. Next, I filled it with all the goodies. Fifteen minutes later I was wiping my chin from the incredible taste explosion in my mouth. OMG, you gotta try it.
1/2 bag of tator tots
Corn tortilla chips, café style
1/2 cup black beans, drained
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup jalapeño slices
3 green onions, snipped
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces Havarti cheese
Salsa to taste
Guacamole to taste
Sour cream to taste
Preheat oven to 425°. Place tator tots on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes; turn over and bake 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and set aside. In an iron skillet, place one layer of corn tortilla chips on the bottom of the skillet and then arrange chips around the edge of the pan to form a bowl. Layer remaining ingredients, including tator tots, alternating with cheese. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and dig in. Top with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream to taste.
Dining Outside the Home: Miguel’s Cocina in Old Town San Diego, California. When the menu captures the true spirit of Mexico, north of the border, it boasts of Miguel’s Signature Fajitas. What makes it so special, you wonder. Pay attention: Skirt steak and chicken topped with bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and sliced poblano. ¡Ay, caramba! Now, you’re talking. Better order a hand-shaken margarita to wash things down. Look around. Handmade tortillas, crispy chips dredged between bowls of jalapeño white sauce and chunky tomato-fresh salsa. Is it any wonder if feels like a party?
Dining Outside the Home: Monico’s Taqueria in Kapaa, Kauai. Change is good, especially when location is involved. Monico’s Taqueria moved up the road where they can serve more customers. Sitting on the outdoor patio at the edge of a coconut grove affords a stunning view of the mountains at sunset. Nice. Kick back, sip on a salt-rimmed margarita, munch on tortilla chips dredged in smoky salsa or homegrown habanero sauce. It doesn’t get any better than this. When the plate of fork-tender crispy pork carnitas arrive, you won’t want to share. Stuff the corn tortillas with beans, rice, pork, and guac. Fold over and bite. As the juices run down your fingers, don’t despair. Lick them. After all, it’s family. There’s no judgment here. The atmosphere is as down to earth as the food itself.
Dining Outside the Home: The Three Amigos in Downtown Edmonton, Alberta, Canada! Authentic Mexican food is as festive as Mexican blankets, wide-rimmed sombreros, and multicolored piñatas. The “Daily Special” boasted Fajitas Al Pastor—crispy chunks of marinated pork cooked with onions and green pepper strips served on a sizzling skillet. Homemade corn tortillas accompanied sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. We ordered a side of refried beans to use as a binding agent once the shells were filled. The finishing touch of habanero sauce sealed the deal with a nice kick of spice. An agave nectar margarita cocktail culminated the entire meal. Bueno!
Dining Outside the Home: Tortilla Republic Kitchen and Margarita Bar in Koloa, Kauai. Picture this. The sun is super-bright and tropical-warm to the point where ducking into a Mexican cantina for a salt-rimmed margarita would have been a good idea about an hour ago. Nevertheless, the shade on the outdoor patio feels 10° cooler under the turquoise blue umbrella as the breezes are beginning to stir. The house margarita goes down easy on its way to an order of Quesadilla Vegetariano. I’m sure you get the picture. Complimentary tortilla chips and spicy salsa are perfect for snacking. This is a recipe for making my day.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Winterfest Walking Tacos! Here’s the perfect “Grab and Go” snack when you’re heading out the door. This time of year towns all over the world celebrate the holiday season with dazzling displays of outdoor Christmas lights. From Santa’s Workshop to high-tech Winter Wonderlands, the animation never stops. Pile the kids on board and have a tailgate party in your car, truck, or SUV. Keep it simple by using plastic picnic tumblers for easy handling. Enjoy a tasty snack while embracing the spirit of the holidays.
WINTERFEST WALKING TACOS
1 pound ground beef
1 package taco seasoning mix
15-ounce can chili beans
10-ounce can tomato bits and sauce
2 cups shredded romaine
1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded
10-ounce bag of corn chips, slightly crushed
1/3 cup salsa
Brown ground beef in a large skillet. Stir over medium heat until completely cooked. Drain. Add taco seasoning packet, chili beans, tomato bits and sauce. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until thickened. Stir occasionally. Before serving, assemble corn chips in the bottom of each cup followed by beef mixture and toppings of choice. Eat with a fork.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Hacienda Taco Salad Bowls! It’s okay to indulge in those fast-food cravings. Everyone does now and then. When I get the urge to succumb to the temptation, I begin to turn things around in my own kitchen. Take, for example, the glorious Taco Salad with the edible crispy flour shell bowl. It can be made for half the cost at home, leaving extra money in your wallet for something like…oh I don’t know…SHOES! Make this guilt-free version at home.
HACIENDA TACO SALAD BOWLS
6 flour tortillas
1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Romaine lettuce leaves, torn
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
2 green onions, snipped
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1/4 cup jalapeño peppers, sliced
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup salsa
Preheat oven to 375°. Using nonstick spray oil, coat the inside of oven-safe bowls. Gently mold the flour tortilla inside to form a bowl. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and cool before transferring to wire rack. Meanwhile, brown ground beef and drain. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin. Mix well. Assemble hacienda bowls by filling with remaining ingredients, per taste. Top with Greek yogurt and salsa.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Huevos Rancheros! The nice thing about a breakfast like this is it’s basically made from leftovers. Beef roast. Check. Baked potatoes. Check, check. If you need ingredients on short notice, no worries. Substitute cooked chicken instead. Potatoes with the skin on cook very quickly in the microwave before being transformed into tasty hash browns. Just remember to pierce them first. Then cook on High for 5 minutes each. For this morning’s heuvos rancheros, I skipped the tortillas and substituted a couple of corn chips for crunch. It’s all good.
2 1/2 cups beef, cooked and shredded
10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies, mild
1/3 cup onion, chopped
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 potatoes, baked and cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons butter
4 tortillas or corn chips
Combine shredded beef, diced tomatoes with green chilies, chopped onion, cumin, oregano, and sea salt in a large saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. This makes the beef moist and tender. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, drizzle olive oil. Add cubed potatoes. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Cook 5 minutes or until golden brown. Do not stir. Turn potatoes for a crispy finish; cook 5 minutes longer. Drizzle in more olive oil, if needed to avoid burning. Remove potatoes from heat when desired texture is reached. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. In another skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Crack 4 eggs into the skillet. Fry eggs sunny side up in butter, 3-4 minutes for runny yolks. To assemble huevos rancheros, layer corn chips or a tortilla on the plate. Next, add spicy meat mixture, then crispy hash brown potatoes. Top with fried egg. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Tomatillo Salsa Verde! The grower at the Farmers Market literally gave me her version of roasting tomatillos as she handed me her bounty. “Pull out your iron skillet, peel and quarter the tomatillos, throw in some garlic cloves, and roast it together in your oven. Simple.” Imagine my smile later that afternoon as I presented a dish of the freshest aromatic salsa verde to my husband for “Happy Hour”. Served with organic corn chips and a citrus margarita, it created quite a buzz!
TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE
5-6 medium size tomatillos, peeled and stems removed
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin powder
3 jalapeño pickled peppers, sliced
Remove the crackly husks covering the fresh tomatillos. Rinse well to remove the sticky residue on the skin. Quarter each tomatillo and place in a seasoned iron skillet. Add garlic and sweet onion. Sprinkle with salt and cumin powder. Place skillet in the oven on highest setting for Broil. Check after 5 minutes, turn the vegetables, and broil another 5 minutes. They should appear soft and slightly charred. There will be juice in the skillet, so handle with care. Transfer vegetables to a food processor. Add jalapeño peppers and purée on pulse setting.