Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter J

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Jalapeño Spiced Green Beans! I must admit, the first time I tasted these incredible green beans, it was as a garnish in a Canadian Caesar Cocktail (a seafood version of America’s Bloody Mary). Talk about a natural kick of spice! Oh. My. Gosh! If you don’t mind a little kick of heat and like green beans, you must try these. Toss them into a garden salad, layer them inside a grilled cheese sandwich, top them on deviled eggs, pair them with shrimp cocktail. Do you see where this is going? It’s extreme, it’s appetizing, and it’s a party in your mouth. 
JALAPEÑO SPICED GREEN BEANS
Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves

1 cup apple cider vinegar 

1 cup water

1 tablespoon agave nectar 

2 tablespoons kosher salt

5 jalapeño peppers, sliced and stems discarded 

1 pound fresh green beans, stems snipped and snapped to fit in the jars. 
Instructions:

In a medium saucepan, combine garlic cloves, apple cider vinegar, water, agave nectar, and kosher salt. Heat to boiling. Stir until dissolved. As it continues boiling, add the slices jalapeños. Keep them submerged under the pickling liquid. Remove the pan from the heat. Set aside for 10-15 minutes. Have ready 1-2 clean, sterilized pint jars. Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add the green beans. Cook until the beans begin to turn bright green, 3-4 minutes. Drain the pan. Rinse immediately with cold water; place green beans in an ice bath for 10 minutes. Drain well. Divide the green beans between the jars. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the jalapeños and garlic cloves to the green beans. Ladle the pickling juices over top until the jars are filled. Discard any leftover brine. Let cool at room temperature before securing lids. Store in refrigerator at least 24 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter B

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Buffalo Chicken Crostini! Take a spicy hot dip, add the buttery texture of avocado, and finish it with the cooling sensation of natural yogurt. Now smile. You’ve just bitten into an appetizer-turned-meal after an exhausting day you’ll soon leave behind. This is how we treat ourselves right. You’re welcome. 
BUFFALO CHICKEN CROSTINI
Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened 

4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature 

3/4 cup ranch dressing 

1 tablespoon dry ranch seasoning mix

3/4 cup red hot sauce

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped 

3/4 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 avocado, pitted

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

1-2 green onions, snipped

1 baguette loaf, sliced and toasted
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat Neufchâtel cheese, goat cheese, ranch dressing, ranch dry seasoning, and red hot sauce. Fold in chopped chicken. Spread mixture into a prepared casserole dish. Bake 15 minutes. Sprinkle extra-sharp cheddar cheese over top. Bake 15 minutes longer. Meanwhile, using a mini chopper, combine avocado, garlic powder, sea salt, and lemon juice. Pulse until mixture is combined but still chunky. Set aside. To assemble crostini, spread creamed avocado over toasted baguette slices. Add a scoop of Buffalo Chicken dip. Dollop with Greek yogurt. Garnish with onion snips. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter O

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Simple Sensations: Over-the-Border Spicy Chicken Ranch Soup! That’s a mouthful, to be sure. I start with my classic potato soup recipe and spice things up a bit. As you can imagine, one thing leads to another and within minutes, you’ve got a meal in a bowl. 
OVER-THE-BORDER SPICY CHICKEN RANCH SOUP
Ingredients:

2 cups water

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut up

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 small onion, chopped

1 packet of dry Ranch seasoning mix

2 cups milk

1 cup pre-cooked grilled chicken strips, cut into cubes

1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, and green beans)

4 ounces Velvetta cheese, sliced

Instant potatoes to thicken, if needed

Parmesan cheese, shaved
Instructions:

In a 2-quart pan, add water, potatoes, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, onion, and butter. Bring to boil and cook until tender. Do not drain. Stir in Ranch seasoning mix until blended. Add milk, chicken, vegetables, and cheese. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. To thicken, sprinkle instant potatoes into soup using a tablespoon at a time. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Z

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Zucchini Cornbread! Jazz up the breadbasket with homemade cornbread that has been enhanced with garden-fresh chopped zucchini and jalapeño peppers. Mix it together in a blend of cornmeal and cheddar cheese before popping it in the oven. Thirty minutes later the aromas rev up your appetite. Can you say “Yum”? Zucchini Cornbread goes especially well with grilled barbecue meats and seafood. Now this is how we kick off the summertime months. 
ZUCCHINI CORNBREAD 
Ingredients:

1 zucchini, chopped

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal 

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder 

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/4 cup skim milk

2-3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

For garnish, reserve a few zucchini slices, jalapeño pepper slices, and shredded cheese for topping
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a nonstick ovenproof dish or iron skillet with nonstick oil. Mix together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Set aside. Blend beaten eggs, vegetable oil, and skim milk. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients. Sir just until blended. Fold in chopped zucchini, chopped jalapeño peppers, red pepper flakes, and cheddar cheese. Pour into prepared iron skillet. If you prefer a garnish, place a couple zucchini slices and jalapeño pepper slices on top. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake 30-35 minutes until center is set and edges are crusty. 

Dining Outside the Home: Oasis on the Beach in Kapaa, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: Oasis on the Beach in Kapaa, Kauai!  Warm up to the spice in Fresh Fish Tacos. After all, you’re at the beach and the fish doesn’t get any fresher than this. Ask the waiter for the special condiment caddy. Among others, you’ll get a trio of Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sauces for a gratifying south-of-the-border taste extravaganza. These sauces are made locally by the Kauai Juice Company in the heart of Kapaa. Sample between the Chocolate Habanero, the Kiawe Smoked, and the Mango Garlic Ghost. Trust me, you’ll know. The grilled flour tortillas come with shredded cabbage and an avocado mousse to balance out the heat. Go strong…or go home!

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter S

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. 
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.  

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter X

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Second Helping of Xnipec Salsa, which translates to “smoking HOT” because it’s made with habanero chile peppers popular in the Yucatan region. I was pretty cautious in making this by first roasting the habaneros in the oven and then scraping out all the seeds. (Warning: Be sure to wear gloves when handling habanero peppers!) I served this salsa with the Zesty Fish Tacos coming up in Letter Z. 
XNIPEC SALSA

Ingredients:

1/3 cup Vidalia onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

4-6 plum tomatoes, cut-up with juice

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice 

Salt to taste 

2 Habanero peppers

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Mix together onions, garlic, tomatoes, salt, lime juice, and orange juice. Set aside. The salt will make the tomatoes very juicy, which releases the flavor, in my opinion. If you prefer a thicker, chunkier sauce, do not add salt until ready to serve. 
Roast the habaneros in the oven at 400° until charred. Broil if necessary. Watch! Slice in half and remove stems. Scrape out all the seeds. Then dice the peppers. Combine with the onion/tomato mixture. Add chopped cilantro. Toss gently. Marinate salsa for one hour prior to serving.