Deveined Shrimp Queso

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Deveined Shrimp Queso! As the nights turn cool, cozy up around the fire with warm appetizers that are sure to please. Save prep time by beginning with precooked shrimp. It takes all the worry out of wondering if the shrimp is cooked through. I find the convenience of having frozen shrimp on hand an advantage. You will, too.

DEVEINED SHRIMP QUESO

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1 pound jumbo shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup tequila

1/4 cup margarita mix, liquid

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup Romano cheese, shaved

Fresh dill

Tortilla chips

Crostini

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, shrimp, seasoned salt, seafood seasoning, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Cook 5 minutes; turn and cook 2 minutes longer. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover shrimp with tequila and liquid margarita mixture. Add butter. Cook 5 minutes. Transfer shrimp to an ovenproof casserole dish. Arrange in single layer. Mix the cornstarch and water until smooth. Bring pan drippings to a boil. Gradually add cornstarch mixture. Stir constantly as sauce thickens. If necessary, add more water. Pour sauce over shrimp. Cover with Monterey Jack cheese, spreading evenly. Top with shaved Romano cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Garnish with fresh dill. Serve warm with tortilla chips or crostini.

Dos Caminos in Times Square, New York, New York

Dining Outside the Home: Dos Caminos in Times Square, New York! Perhaps Cinco de Mayo isn’t the best time to try out an authentic Mexican restaurant. But then again, maybe it is. The vibrant cantina was hopping like a fiesta celebration. Shot glasses were slung back and refilled on demand. Traditional guacamole was served in natural molcajete stones with warm tortilla chips. The salsa trio was a bonus. Queso Fundido, piping hot in a black iron skillet, was spot on. Thick with melted cheese, poblano peppers, dark beer, and roasted tomatoes made it a meal. Keep the Cadillac Margaritas coming for an amazing culmination.

Tex-Mex Tortilla Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Tex-Mex Tortilla Soup! One thing I love about Fall is the convenience of crockpot meals. Throw all the ingredients together, stir, and then forget about it for a few hours. Do something fun……and I don’t mean raking leaves or shelling walnuts. Take a nature walk, visit an apple orchard, choose a mum plant for your front door, photograph colorful pumpkins and gourds. You get the idea. Don’t let the season pass you by. Autumn is in full swing and Mother Earth has splattered the landscape with vibrant colors.

TEX-MEX TORTILLA SOUP

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef

20-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies, mild flavor

10-ounce can diced tomatoes, zesty flavor

15-ounce can black beans, organic

15-ounce can corn, drained

15-ounce can kidney beans, drained

4-ounce packet taco seasoning mix

4-ounce packet ranch seasoning mix

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

3 green onions, snipped

1/3 cup sliced jalapeño peppers

Instructions:

Brown ground beef. Drain any liquid. Place ground beef, tomatoes (juice included), black beans, corn, kidney beans, taco dry seasoning mix, and ranch dry seasoning mix in a slow-cooker. Mix well. Cover and cook on High for 3-4 hours OR on Low for 6-8 hours. Uncover. Ladle Tex-Mex Tortilla Soup into bowl and garnish with Monterey Jack cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt, onion snips, and jalapeño pepper rings. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Kickstart Breakfast Burrito

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Kickstart Breakfast Burrito! Eggs have a way of warding off those mid-morning hunger pangs, in my opinion. Being high in protein makes them a favorite and keeps me from caving in to foods with empty calories later on. Because I’m a bread-lover, the tortilla satisfies like manna from heaven. Cheese, turkey sausage, and veggies kickstart my breakfast so I can stay focused and on point. Choose a breakfast wrap the next time you want a little variety in your day.

KICKSTART BREAKFAST BURRITO

Ingredients:

2 flour tortillas, burrito size

2 tablespoons salsa

2 tablespoons onion, chopped

1 small green pepper, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

1 lemon chili pepper, chopped (optional)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons milk

2-4 turkey sausage links, precooked and sliced

4 tablespoons Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, finely shredded

Instructions:

Top tortillas with salsa. Set aside. Combine onion, green pepper, tomato, and lemon chili pepper in a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Microwave on High for 1 minute, 45 seconds. Remove and set aside. Heat turkey sausage chunks for 30 seconds on High in the microwave oven. Set aside. In a nonstick medium skillet over medium heat, add beaten eggs. Cook, stirring occasionally for one minute. Add turkey sausage, shredded cheese, and vegetable mixture. Cook one minute longer or until eggs are set. Do not burn. Divide scrambled egg mixture between the tortilla shells. Fold into a burrito. Makes two breakfast burritos.

Uruguayan Chorizo Cheese Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Uruguayan Chorizo Cheese Dip! Traveling exposes you to all kinds of different foods, especially nowadays. I can’t tell you how often we are hundreds of miles from home and end up running into someone who used to live down the road from us. It’s a small world, isn’t it? Striking up a conversation with strangers, who have become city residents, brings out the best places in local hot spots. After all, when asked, “What restaurants do you favor in your free time”, they begin rattling off a list of specialties worthy of remembering. At that point I’m making notes on my cell phone to further explore reviews and websites for our next meal. That’s what happened the day we ate at a fusion restaurant and discovered how tasty hot melted cheese can be. Pass it on.

URUGUAYAN CHORIZO CHEESE DIP

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 pound smoky provolone cheese, sliced

1/4 pound montamoré cheese, crumbled

1/4 pound parmesan cheese, shredded

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup chorizo, cooked and crumbled

2 tablespoons pickled jalapeño slices

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Place an iron skillet, rubbed with vegetable oil, into the oven while it is preheating. Carefully remove it after 4-5 minutes, or when the buzzer indicates the oven has reached that temperature. Layer the sliced provolone cheese in the bottom of the skillet. Be sure to cover the bottom completely. Next, cover the provolone with crumbled montamoré cheese. Finally, top with grated parmesan cheese. Sprinkle dried oregano, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes over all. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are crispy and the cheese is melted. The bottom of the cheese dip will be slightly seared. Remove from the oven and garnish with warmed chorizo and jalapeño slices. Serve with corn tortilla chips.

Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeño Piggies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeño Piggies! Sooo, when you’re looking at a bounty of jalapeños and you’ve already pickled several jars, what’s next? Jalapeño poppers, with a bacon twist! These fiery devils will awaken your taste buds, so it’s a good idea to cool things down a bit with dairy products. Hence the need for a melted cheese filling and a yogurt-ranch dipping sauce. My husband and I feasted on a plate of these one night, so you can too—-if you dare!

CHEESE-STUFFED JALAPEÑO PIGGIES

Ingredients:

12-14 jalapeño peppers, red or green

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

3-4 mozzarella string cheese sticks

2 slices bacon, precooked and crumbled

Crushed tortilla chips

Cilantro for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray a wire rack with nonstick oil and place on the baking sheet. Set aside. Wash the jalapeño peppers. Pat dry. Wearing gloves, slice the top of each jalapeño vertically, removing a small section to create a well. Remove seeds and ribs. Discard. Brush each jalapeño pepper with olive oil. Sprinkle on seasonings. Place jalapeños on the wire rack with cut side down. Bake 10 minutes; then set broiler to High and broil 2-3 minutes until peppers are slightly charred. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Using a tongs, flip them over. Divide the cheddar cheese between the jalapeño peppers. Using a kitchen shears, cut the string cheese into strips. Layer over cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the bacon crumbles over the cheese-filled jalapeños. Top with crushed tortilla chips. Broil stuffed “piggies” on High another 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove pan from oven and let cool slightly before transferring stuffed jalapeños to a platter. Serve with ranch salad dressing that has a dollop of Greek yogurt mixed in. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Street Tacos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Street Tacos! This is literally Cooking 101. I have been making tacos since I was 16 years old, before microwave ovens and gourmet kitchens were commonplace. My Aunt Gail, in Michigan, taught me the timeless secrets of a classic Mexican staple. First of all, you must use authentic yellow corn tortillas. Forget the box because you’re going to fry up the shells for freshness. It’s worth the effort, believe me.

STREET TACOS

Ingredients:

16-ounce package yellow corn tortillas

2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef, lean

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 green onions, snipped

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Shredded lettuce

Fresh cilantro

Pico de Gallo or salsa

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. Brown ground beef in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the beef is crumbly. Drain, if necessary. Season beef with garlic, cumin powder, onion powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add tortilla; cook 10 seconds per side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat until all tortillas have been fried. Reduce heat. One at a time, place a tortilla back into the skillet. Add 1-2 tablespoons ground beef mixture into each tortilla. Fold in half and place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all tortillas and ground beef are used. Warm in the oven until ready to serve. Assemble street tacos, per taste, with shredded lettuce, onion, cheese, cilantro, and Pico de Gallo.

Quesadilla Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Quesadilla Burger! Two layers of gooey melted cheese sandwiched inside a flour tortilla is just the beginning. Add an Angus beef patty butter-fried in an iron skillet and savor the aromas. Take a walk on the wild side by adding sliced jalapeño peppers for a little heat. After that, who cares? Go crazy with your favorite condiments. Anything goes!

QUESADILLA BURGER

Ingredients:

1 pound Angus ground beef

1 beef bouillon cube

1-2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 flour tortillas

1/4 wedge lettuce, shredded

1 medium tomato, sliced

1/2 red onion, sliced

1/4 cup pickled jalapeño peppers, sliced

Condiments to taste

Instructions:

In a small bowl, microwave water for 1 minute, 45 seconds. Dissolve bouillon cube. Add mixture to ground beef, working to incorporate. Form beef into 4 quarter pound patties. Refrigerate until ready to use. Preheat oven to 350°. Place tortillas to lay flat on a baking sheet. Divide cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese between four tortillas, stopping before the edges. Bake 4-5 minutes until cheese melts. Remove and set aside. Meanwhile, add butter to an iron skillet set on medium-high heat. Cook burger patties 3 minutes on one side. Flip and cook 3 minutes longer. Take one burger, insert into a cheesy tortilla, fold over, and place back into the skillet just until shell is golden, about one minute. Remove from skillet. Add lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeño peppers, and other condiments.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Homemade Tortilla Chips! Ever wonder why your favorite Mexican restaurant has such incredible tortilla chips? Well now you can make your own café-style chips at home. Begin with flour and corn tortillas the day before. Just open the packages and let them breathe overnight on the kitchen counter. This simple step removes any excess moisture and allows them to fry up crispier. Sprinkled with sea salt and dipped in chunky salsa is practically a dream come true.

HOMEMADE TORTILLA CHIPS

Ingredients:

2 cups vegetable oil

1 package yellow corn tortillas, extra thin

1 package flour tortillas, soft taco size

Sea salt to taste

Instructions:

Cut each corn tortilla into 8 wedges. Use entire package. Set aside. Cut each flour tortilla in half and then into strips. Use entire package. Set aside. Beginning with one cup vegetable oil in a large skillet, heat the oil on medium setting until a tortilla sizzles. Avoid smoke. That means the oil is too hot. Place a handful of corn tortilla wedges into the hot oil. Do not overlap. Fry for 1-2 minutes until the chips are golden and crisp. Use tongs to flip over half way through, if necessary. As the oil is used, reduce heat to avoid smoking. Use tongs to remove chips from oil; drain on paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat in batches until all corn chips are fried. Add remaining cup of oil to skillet. Repeat with flour tortilla strips. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy!