Half-Baked Skillet Pizza Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Half-Baked Skillet Pizza Dip! Who likes bread dough? I do, I do. Who keeps a bag of frozen bread dough rolls in their freezer? Me, too. Whether you’re making this amazing pizza dip as an afternoon snack, midday appetizer, or late-night dinner, you will impress yourself with the chewy bread dough base. That is, until the mouthwatering moment you feast your eyes on the gooey strands of pizza cheese. Melted mozzarella cheese pulls can stretch from the iron skillet to your mouth like a tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls. Either snap it off in one bite or twirl it around your index finger for satisfying nibbling. Did I fail to mention the layers of deliciousness? Read on to see what I mean.

HALF-BAKED SKILLET PIZZA DIP

Ingredients for Crust:

12 frozen dinner roll dough balls

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

Ingredients for Dip:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon zesty Italian salad dressing mix

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup provolone cheese, shredded

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup prepared pizza sauce

5 slices deli-style hard salami, cut into triangles (or mini pepperoni slices)

Fresh Parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray an iron skillet with nonstick oil. Remove frozen bread dough rolls from the freezer. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt, red pepper flakes, and parsley flakes. Mix well. Coat each frozen bread dough roll with butter mixture and arrange around the outside edge of the iron skillet. Cover pan with a tea towel, place in a warm area, and allow the dough to rise for 20 minutes for a half-baked doughy crust. Meanwhile, to prepare dip filling, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning, and grated parmesan cheese. Mix well. Fold in shredded provolone cheese and 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Spoon half the filling into the center of the iron skillet. Add a layer of pizza sauce. Spoon the remaining cheese filling on top. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese over all. Arrange with salami or pepperoni slices. Place the iron skillet in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and pizza dip is bubbly. Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm.

Fried Cinnamon Sugar Pears

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Fried Cinnamon Sugar Pears! Impulse buys. We all get lambasted as soon as we step through the automated doors of the supermarket. The colorful array of succulent fruit and glistening vegetables appear as lush as if they were grown in the Garden of Eden. Before you know it, the grocery cart is overflowing with a mountain of luxuriant produce. In your mind, you’re already forming mental images of gastronomic creations where you spin around the kitchen like Julia Child waving a wooden spoon in the air. That is until you get home. The fruit is ripening faster than you can say, “go bananas”. Now two weeks in, you’ve already exhausted several different ways of consuming that box of winter pears. Allow me to offer a quick ‘n easy side dish. It goes especially well with pork loin or spiral ham. I promise you, your family will be singing your praises from now on.

FRIED CINNAMON SUGAR PEARS

Ingredients:

6 Oregon pears, peeled, cored, and sliced

2-3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup apple cider

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Fresh lemon thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

In an iron skillet over low heat, warm butter. Combine sugar, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in a bowl. Mix well; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together apple cider and cornstarch. Set aside. Add sliced pears to melted butter. Coat well; increase heat to medium setting. Stir gently for about 3 minutes. Sprinkle sugar mixture over pears. Stir. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pears are fork tender. Pour apple cider liquid over pears, stirring constantly for 2 minutes longer. Remove iron skillet from heat. Allow fried pears to cool slightly and thicken. Ladle into small bowls. Serve warm.

Caramelized Plum Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Caramelized Plum Sauce! A plum is one of those fruits whose skin is incredibly tender and easy to bite into. It offers a slightly tart taste before the sweetness of the flesh engulfs your senses. When I was a teenager living in Nebraska along the Missouri River, I remember puttering along winding country roads in the grain belt on a late summer afternoon. The weather was hot and humid, so the windows were rolled down on the beat up 1962 Plymouth Valiant that had seen better days. An irritated cicada beetle was screeching from the glove box where my boyfriend had tossed it after seeing it land on the front seat. I turned my head away to look beyond the car’s front fender when I saw a small native tree bursting to its limit with sweet, ripe, purple plums. “Look!” I exclaimed pointing my index finger, “It’s just like the plums in the grocery store!”

CARAMELIZED PLUM SAUCE

Ingredients:

4 fresh plums, washed, sliced, and stones discarded

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons brown sugar

3 cinnamon sticks

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon raw honey

Instructions:

Cut stone fruit in half. Remove pits and slice into segments, leaving skin on. Set aside. In a large skillet, warm butter over medium heat. Do not scorch. Add brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and raw honey. Stir. Bring to a simmer. Gradually add sliced plums; gently tossing to coat. Continue simmering for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Fruit will turn tender, not mushy. Remove pan from heat. Set aside to cool slightly. Spoon caramelized plum sauce over vanilla bean ice cream. Serve immediately. Once the sauce is cool, pour into a glass jar. Cover. Store in the refrigerator up to one month.

Garlic Clove Little Smokies

Experience the Holidays: Garlic Clove Little Smokies! I know people often wait for the holidays to serve this spicy little appetizer, but I recently discovered its popularity as a lunch box companion. By making it ahead of time and storing it in a jar, it travels well. Add dill pickle chunks, bite-size cheese cubes, vegetable skewers, fresh fruit, chips, salsa, and double chocolate brownies. You’ll have the perfect portable party food for any occasion. Doesn’t everyone love finger foods?

GARLIC CLOVE LITTLE SMOKIES

Ingredients:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup catsup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

14 ounces little smokies cocktail wieners

Fresh chives for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, honey, catsup, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, and roasted sesame seeds. Mix well. Add cocktail wieners. Coat evenly. Transfer to a covered casserole dish. Bake for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with roasted sesame seeds and fresh chives before serving.

Quesadilla Chile Relleno

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Quesadilla Chile Relleno! Before you shake your head and walk away, hear me out. Green poblano peppers are a pretty mild distant cousin to the jalapeño and habanero. You could almost say they’re from the “other side of the tracks”, so to speak. Personally, I think they’re underrated. If you look up their classification, they might even be referred to as sweet. Now, I don’t know about that. What I do know is they smell somewhat earthy, tend to hold their shape, and are absolutely scrumptious when bathed in Mexican cheeses. In my opinion, they definitely deserve a second chance. What have you got to lose?

QUESADILLA CHILE RELLENO

Ingredients:

2 large flour tortillas

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup Mexican-style four cheeses, shredded

2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, and sliced in strips

1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped

1/4 cup ranch dressing, prepared

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon sriracha sauce

Instructions:

Butter one side of each flour tortilla. Set aside. Warm an iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the skillet, butter side down. Add half the Mexican cheeses. Arrange the poblano peppers in a single layer over cheese. Scatter chopped onion over all. Add remaining Mexican cheese blend. Place the remaining tortilla on top, butter side up. Press down lightly. Cover the pan with a lid. Cook 3-4 minutes until tortilla is lightly browned and cheese is melted. Using a spatula, flip over the quesadilla. Cover with lid. Cook 2-3 minutes longer until golden brown. Do not burn. Transfer quesadilla to a cutting board. Let rest for 2 minutes to avoid a flood of gooey cheese. In a small bowl, combine prepared ranch dressing, cayenne pepper, and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Cut the quesadilla into 6 triangles. Serve with sriracha ranch dipping sauce.

Xia Chinese Shrimp

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Xia Chinese Shrimp! Stir-fry is a popular way to cook a meal. Many chefs use a wok while others simply use a shallow skillet. Both work just fine, so follow your heart. By tossing and stirring chunks of food over high heat, meals are ready in minimal time. Who-hoo! It’s important to use a cooking oil that can handle high heat without smoking, so leave the olive oil on the shelf. Canola and vegetable oil are workhorses that not only have a high smoking point, but also have a neutral taste, which is why it was chosen here. Be sure to prepare ingredients in advance, including side dishes. Once the stir-fry is ready, it’s time to eat.

XIA CHINESE SHRIMP

Ingredients:

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

3 scallions, roughly chopped

1 pound jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

Green onions, for garnish

Instructions:

Whisk together ketchup, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, and agave nectar in a small bowl. Set aside. Warm vegetable oil in a shallow skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced ginger and chopped scallions. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly for one minute. Add shrimp. Cook about 2 minutes, turning over and over. Shrimp will change to pink in color. Add prepared sauce. Cook for one minute until thick, stirring often. Remove from heat. Divide between dinner plates. Garnish with green onion snips. Serve immediately over cooked rice, if desired.

Individual Lasagna Roll-Ups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Individual Lasagna Roll-Ups! Lasagna can be a tedious process from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, some days it is definitely worth the effort. When I want to simplify my life, I take advantage of the effortless idea of creating a roll-up from each noodle. Not only does it make each portion compact, but it also guarantees that every helping has all the goodies tucked neatly inside. And that’s basically what lasagna is all about, isn’t it? Think about how easy it would be for transporting to family gatherings or seasonal parties, should you choose to share. Everyone wins.

INDIVIDUAL LASAGNA ROLL-UPS

Ingredients:

6 lasagna noodles

1 pound Italian sausage, ground

1/2 teaspoon fennel

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 tablespoons green pepper, diced

1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced

12 ounces marinara sauce

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain. Refill pot with cold water to keep the noodles from sticking together. Set aside. In a large skillet, cook Italian sausage over medium-high heat. Add fennel, sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Crumble meat as it cooks. Add chopped onions, diced green peppers, and sliced mushrooms. Pour marinara over all. Stir thoroughly; reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off heat. Spread the bottom of the prepared casserole dish with 1/4 cup meat mixture. In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and chopped parsley. Transfer lasagna noodles to a baking sheet. Spread cheese mixture over the top of each noodle. Add a strip of meat mixture over the cheese layer. Roll up noodles and transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Spread remaining meat mixture over lasagna rolls. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover casserole with a lid or foil. Bake covered for 40 minutes. Remove lid and broil 2-3 minutes until cheese is lightly golden. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Meatball Pizzetta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Meatball Pizzetta! Need a late-night snack beyond a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream? Don’t get me wrong, there was a time in my life when I self-medicated with a pint of Turkish Coffee Ice Cream, at least 3 or 4 times a week. No regrets and certainly no judgment here. What I recently discovered, though, is a mini portion of authentic flatbread, packaged in a 4-count. Just the right size to become a pizzetta for one. I always seem to have a jar of homemade Italian marinara in my fridge. And mozzarella cheese? Well, that’s practically a staple around my house as well. Do you see the wheels turning? This is how my kitchen is stocked. Because you never know when a craving will hit.

MEATBALL PIZZETTA

Ingredients:

I mini naan flatbread

2-3 tablespoons marinara sauce, prepared

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

3-5 small frozen Italian meatballs, thawed

1 tablespoon pickled red onions

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the rack while the oven is warming. Take a mini naan flatbread and place it on a plate. Spread a layer of marinara, stopping short of the edges. Layer naan with shredded mozzarella cheese. Arrange Italian meatballs on top. Transfer pizzetta to a preheated pizza stone. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese melts and crust is crunchy. Carefully remove from oven, add pickled red onions, and slice pizzetta. Garnish with fresh basil.

Honey Butter Shrimp

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Honey Butter Shrimp! Here’s a different kind of main dish that creates a balance of sweet, salty, and a little bit of spice in every bite. Shrimp lovers will not be disappointed with the tender, incredibly mild, slightly creamy taste of ocean shrimp. It’s very good, according to my husband the taste tester. The firmness of each delicate morsel, curled into the C-shape when cooked, makes each bite a succulent delight for the palate. The aromatic ginger, when mixed with soy sauce and sticky sweet honey, will awaken the taste buds for a juicier finish. Done right, this shrimp becomes a labor of love that will surely bring raves.

HONEY BUTTER SHRIMP

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons butter

3 ounces coconut milk

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons raw honey

Zest and juice from one lime

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and white pepper. Warm olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes per side. Add minced garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, and butter. Cook the shrimp in the butter until the garlic caramelizes, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, soy sauce, and raw honey. Stir to combine. Simmer 2-3 minutes until completely warmed. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice, zest, and cilantro. Serve warm over rice.