Marinated Mozzarella Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Marinated Mozzarella Flatbread! You’re probably like everyone else right now and could go to the freezer to pull out a prepared flatbread for supper. Another shortcut is to use marinated mozzarella cheese which already comes sliced in a blend of herbs and olive oil. Oftentimes, I freeze a surplus of cooked meat as well. In this case I already had seasoned Italian sausage, but you could certainly switch things up with pepperoni or sun-dried tomatoes. That’s the beauty of cooking at home. The results bring satisfaction. Just be careful of those piping hot stretchy cheese pulls.

MARINATED MOZZARELLA FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 prepared naan flatbread

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 cup cooked and crumbled Italian sausage

16 ounces marinated mozzarella slices

Crushed basil leaves

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the flatbread. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Carefully flip it over onto a pizza stone. Rub the remaining olive oil onto the top of the crust. Make a layer with the crumbled Italian sausage. Arrange marinated mozzarella slices over meat. Bake for 15 -20 minutes for a crispy crust. The longer it bakes, the more gooey the cheese becomes. When finished, remove from the oven and garnish with crushed basil and red pepper flakes.

Spicy Poblano Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Spicy Poblano Sauce! Try to avoid slurping this sauce by the spoonful straight out of the jar. Poblano peppers are a whole other animal, so to speak. Compared to its fiery cousins, the habanero or jalapeño, poblanos are mild and earthy, especially when roasted. Most of the time they are either stuffed (like the chile relleno you find on restaurant menus) or served as a sauce over roasted chicken enchiladas. Still confused? Think Mexican green sauce with chicken and spicy red sauce with beef or cheese.

SPICY POBLANO SAUCE

Ingredients:

4 poblano peppers

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 cup light cream

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Space poblano peppers two inches apart. Roast poblano peppers in broiler oven on High setting until the skins are blistered and charred, 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer to a bowl and cover for 15 minutes. When cool, peel off the skin and chop the peppers, discarding seeds and stems. Warm butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and light cream. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring often. Add chopped poblanos. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer poblano mixture to a food processor. Pulse to purée. Season with cumin powder, sea salt, and white pepper. Pulse again. Add Greek yogurt. Blend until smooth. Serve warm over burritos or other Mexican dishes.

Su’s Garden Chinese Restaurant on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Su’s Garden Chinese Restaurant on Marco Island, Florida! Pay no attention to the golden lions guarding the serpent-wrapped columns as you enter through the glass doors, unless you want to take a photo. Dining areas are set with white tablecloths, printed placemats, and flatware. Meals are served in Old World style on blue and white designed dishes by attentive servers. Portions are generous and filling. The menu offers tasty appetizers, savory soups, and extensive house specialties with steamed or fried rice. Pay attention to the dishes that promote peppery hot, spicy ingredients for those who crave that Szechwan kick. One mustn’t forget a pot of the blended hot tea for the ultimate dining experience. When you can go no further, sit back, break open the fortune cookie, read the message, and eat the cookie. Perfect meals require perfect endings.

Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup! Not only is this soup perfect for those chilly evenings ahead, but it is also more fun to eat simply because instead of saltine crackers, fresh popcorn is used. That’s right, you heard me…popcorn. It really doesn’t matter if you use the air-popped variety, microwave movie popcorn, or slightly sweet kettle-style popcorn. I know, right!?! More and more you may discover this quirky dish on a restaurant menu, even outside the state of Wisconsin. It actually dates back to when German immigrants came to America. Beer was readily available and often used in soup. Over time, more veggies, spices, and cheese were added turning supper time soup into the comfort meal it is today. If you’re up for an adventure, read on.

WISCONSIN BEER CHEESE SOUP

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped

1 yellow onion, diced

1 rib celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 cups light cream or milk, warmed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

16 ounces beer

Popcorn for garnish

Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil. Add chopped carrots, diced onions, chopped celery, and minced garlic. Sauté until vegetables are tender, approximately 8-10 minutes. In a 4-quart pan, melt butter on low heat. Do not burn. Increase heat to medium-high and sprinkle in flour. Stir constantly while cooking. The flour mixture will turn a light brown. Add red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, sea salt, black pepper, and dry mustard. Mix well. Gradually pour in warmed milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps or scorching. It will thicken nicely. Add Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle in shredded cheese, stirring constantly to melt the cheese. Slowly add beer and bring to a boil. Stir until foam disappears. Reduce heat to low setting. Add vegetable mixture to the cheese soup. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve with popcorn garnish.

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.

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.

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.

Sweet and Sour Spicy Pork

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Sweet and Sour Spicy Pork! Too busy to cook? This is where the leftover meat from a pork roast comes in very handy. A little bit goes a long way, especially when paired with fruit, vegetables, and a yummy sauce. Dinner can be on your table in less than 30 minutes, leaving more time for your favorite programs on the DVR or Netflix.

SWEET AND SOUR SPICY PORK

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked pork, cut up

13-ounce can pineapple chunks, reserve liquid

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 pound mini carrots

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

3/4 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup water

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili paste

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon corn starch

2 green onions, snipped

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Instructions:

In a large skillet, combine ketchup, honey, vinegar, soy sauce, pineapple juice, water, garlic powder, and chili paste. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer 2 minutes. Blend lemon juice and corn starch. Stir into skillet. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute. Add cut-up pork, pineapple chunks, green pepper, and mini carrots. Heat through. Garnish with green onion snips and toasted sesame seeds. Serve over rice.

Hattie B’s Chicken in Nashville, Tennessee

Dining Outside the Home: Hattie B’s Chicken in Nashville, Tennessee! Chicken places can be a dime a dozen in the South, but Hot Spicy Chicken is a bird of a different color. Hattie B’s is a mom and pop food joint that rolls off the tongue with a southern drawl. Ask anyone on the street and they’ll point you in the direction for fried chicken at its best in Nashville. Five heat levels from no heat crispy chicken to eye-bulging habanero spicy are offered, so be prepared to eat your words. You’re going to need the coleslaw, pickles, and beans to tone things down long enough to finish the basket you ordered. For an explosion of flavor worth bragging about, head over to Hattie B’s. It’s something to crow about.