Today is National Cheese Lovers Day! It’s pretty much my favorite holiday… second to National Bacon Day of course. 🙂
This queso dip is bursting with vegetables and flavor. The chunks of tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, onions, hint of lime and spices really make this dip sing. I like to think all of the vegetables make this dip good for you too… even if you do add mounds of processed cheese to it. You win some, you lose some.
Anywho, whip this recipe out at your next football party or social gathering – this recipe makes a huge batch. It’s super cheesy, filled to the brim with veggies and it has enough heat to satisfy those picky heat buds. Trust me, it’ll satisfy the masses. Just be sure you have enough tortilla chips on hand. Going, going, gone!
Note: Feel free to omit the peppers if you’re not a huge fan of heat. If you do enjoy a bit of kick, remember that the smaller your pepper is, the hotter it will be. Think of it as if all of that heat is concentrated into a smaller area. To test how hot your pepper is, cut it in half and lick the inside edge. You can judge how hot the pepper is by the amount of tears you shed 😉
Also, always avoid touching your eyes or face after dealing with hot peppers. It is best to use a pair of gloves while chopping them if possible. Even after washing your hands, the residue from hot peppers will linger on your hands for hours, even days.
1/4 cup fresh cliantro, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
16-ounces (about half of a pack) of Velveeta Cheese Product, largely cubed
Saute the onion, peppers and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the broth, tomatoes, cilantro, lime, cumin, chile powder and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to low heat.
Add the chunks of cheese and stir until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Taste test and add more spices if desired. Add more cheese if the mixtures seems too tomato heavy. Sprinkle with a few leaves of cilantro and serve warm with a spoon nearby (the mixture will solidify if it sits for too long) and your favorite tortilla chips.
Man, it has been colder than cold here in Colorado lately. I think the high maybe squeaked into the teens today. BRR!! It was time to whip out some warm, hearty recipes… like this one!
Besides my recent “splurge” at Sprouts Grocery Store (I bought an eggplant and some potatoes) I have mostly steered clear of the grocery stores overall. Continuing with my Fiscal Cleanse, I didn’t buy anything for this recipe. I still had leftover cheese tortellini from a previous recipe, frozen peas, and mushrooms in my fridge. If you don’t like mushrooms, feel free to omit them, but do not (and I repeat DO NOT) skimp on the Parmesan sauce. It is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good!
1/16 crushed red pepper, extra crushed in your hand, optional
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
Boil your tortellini according to the package directions. Drain, toss with a drizzle of olive oil and set aside.
Saute the onions and mushrooms in olive oil and butter. Once the mushrooms have begun to soften, about 5 minutes, add the garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and red pepper. Saute for another 2 minutes then add the vegetable broth, heavy cream and frozen peas. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low (simmer). Stir occasionally and allow the sauce to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon and Parmesan and remove from heat. Stir until the Parmesan is incorporated in the sauce.
Add the cooked tortellini and gently toss. Serve immediately.
I live in a small city near the foothills of Colorado. To give you an idea of how life is here, I’ll say that life is pretty simple. I mean, we do have a Walmart and Target and many chain stores, but life seems to stop after the sun sets. The stores downtown close by 6pm, the grocery stores aren’t open 24/7 and people get really (really) excited when the Broncos (or Rockies or the Avalanche or the Mammoth) win a game. It’s a nice little place. Just enough off of the grid to have that small town feel with your neighbors but just enough going on for a community to survive on.
Recently, I noticed a Sprouts grocery store had moved into an old bookstore. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Sprouts is a more family friendly version of Whole Foods. I used to drive 30 minutes just to shop at one. Why? Because their produce and meat specials are amazing! How amazing you ask? How about $1 blueberries amazing? Or an 8lb. bag of russet potatoes for $1 amazing? Or a pack of pork chops for $2 amazing? Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. Everything they have is quality too because everything they had is either natural and/or organic, which made that 30 minute trip (back in the day) well worth it for me. Now I luckily don’t have to worry about the drive – I have a location 5 minutes away from me!
I used the potatoes I bought at Sprouts in this recipe. Quiche can be both a breakfast or lunch type of dish, depending on what you serve it with. For us, we were having brunch and I was craving Home Fries (“American Fries,” if you’re in Wisconsin). This was my compromise. I love, love, love potatoes and this cheesy-potato top was the icing on my quiche cake!! It turned out very much like a gratin with a savory, veggie egg scramble underneath it. Really yummy! Plus the presentation isn’t bad either.
3/4 cup chopped vegetables (we used sliced mushrooms and halved cherry tomatoes)
1 cup cheese (we used a mixture of gruyere, feta, and mozzarella)
Small slices of parmesan
1 whole baked or boiled potato, thinly sliced
For the Crust:
Move your oven rack to the top third part of your oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place all ingredients in 9-inch pie pan. Stir together with fork. Pat mixture into bottom and up the sides of the pan slightly. Poke holes in bottom and side of crust.
Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until light brown.
For the Quiche:
Lower oven heat to 375 degrees F.
In a large skillet, saute the onion and vegetables (omit the tomatoes) with butter over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the water, garlic powder, dill, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Add cheeses and the cooked vegetable mixture, and tomatoes. Combine. Pour the egg-mixture into the half-baked crust.
Top the mixture with a thin layer of potatoes, gratin-style. Add the slices of parmesan on top of the potatoes. Drop four or five small dabs of butter on top of the potatoes and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the quiche has set in the middle and the potatoes and cheese are crisp and bubbly. Serve hot or cold.
On days when it snows I want a few different things:
A warm drink
A hot, filling meal
A wood burning fire (optional)
Macaroni and cheese definitely fits the bill for a hot, filling meal. Emeril’s mac and cheese is an expensive macaroni and cheese overall but it is one of the richest tasting recipes I’ve ever tried. I love Emeril’s addition of his own “Essence” spice in the breadcrumb topping (we always use crushed Goldfish and/or Cheez-Its instead). His seasoning blend was a nice touch and I will continue to use this combination of spices for any breadcrumb topping from here on out.
I like my mac and cheese super creamy so I added an additional 1/2 cup of half & half and reduced the amount of gruyere by 2-ounces. A personal choice because gruyere to my palette is a very strong cheese that I can pick out in any recipe even before I taste it. I served my mac and cheese with some fresh peas to add a bit of freshness to my plate. It also made me feel a little less gluttonous mentally. 🙂
In a heavy, medium saucepan melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and whisk in the half and half little by little. Cook until thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, season with the salt, pepper, hot sauce and 4 ounces of the grated parmesan. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Cover and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt to taste and, while stirring, add the macaroni. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to a low boil and cook for about 5 minutes, or until macaroni is very al dente (slightly undercooked). Drain in a colander and return the macaroni to the pot. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the garlic and stir to combine. Add the bechamel sauce and stir until well combined. Set aside.
Using the remaining tablespoon of butter, grease a 3-quart baking dish or casserole and set aside.
In a large bowl combine 4 ounces of the remaining parmesan cheese, cheddar, fontina and gruyere cheeses. Toss to combine.
Place one-third of the macaroni in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with one-third of the mixed cheeses. Top with another third of the macaroni and another third of the cheese mixture. Repeat with the remaining macaroni and cheese mixture. In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, remaining 1/2 ounce of grated parmesan, and the Essence and toss to combine. Sprinkle this over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the macaroni and cheese is bubbly and hot and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
I have to say, squash can seem like an intimidating vegetable. It’s big and awkward and has a tough outer shell. Have no fear though because cooking a squash is super simple. Just put it on a cookie sheet, stab it a few times with your favorite knife and pop it in the oven. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. After an hour that tough shell loosens to reveal a creamy, buttery center. Yum.
After you bake your squash, add lots of garlic, parmesan and a touch of cream then balance all of the savory flavors with a bit of sweet by adding some dried berries. This is an extremely easy recipe that’s dressed to impress. This smashed squash is unique enough to be a holiday side dish or simply served along side a casual entree, like these roasted chicken thighs. Do it. You know you want to.
Baked Butternut Squash with Garlic and Dried Berries
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Yields: Serves 6
1 small butternut squash (about 3-4 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley (or basil)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup dried berries (I used cranberries and blueberries)
Preheat oven to 375F. Pierce squash a few times with sharp paring knife (to let steam escape). Bake squash for 60 minutes, or until a paring knife pierces easily through skin with little resistance. Let squash cool for 10 minutes.
Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove and discard the seeds. Peel the skin off and set aside. If the squash seem difficult to scrape, return the squash to bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Heat a large saute pan with the butter and the garlic over medium-low heat. When garlic becomes fragrant, add parsley, salt and squash. Toss well, sprinkle in the parmesan cheese and taste to see if you need additional salt. Add the berries and serve hot with butter.
Recently my camera decided that it was done with close-ups of frying fish and low-lit photo sessions with pico de gallo and quit on me. I was using it and for some reason the lens will not retract back into the camera. In all fairness, my camera was never anything special, but now I don’t have anything to take photos of my food with.
In a sense it’s a blessing because now I can solely focus on cooking in the kitchen and enjoying what I eat instead of spending so much time trying to capture a decent photo while my food gets cold. Usually, Mister is already done eating by the time I get to the dinner table. Plus, Black Friday is right around the corner. Fingers crossed that I can find a good deal!
This image is courtesy of Skinny Taste. Here’s hoping that I will take photos like this some day with a brand new camera!
Okay, about the soup. It’s savory and delicious and completely filling. I took Skinny Taste’s original recipe and made it my own. Although I absolutely love her and her work, (and in my very humble opinion) I thought the original broth was lacking in flavor. It was probably the brand of chicken stock I used but I definitely had to add more seasoning to make this work for us. In the end it turned out really good! Mister even went back for seconds. Success!
We had quite a few bowls to eat as leftovers for the next few nights too. The first time I re-heated the soup I put it in a pot over high heat and sort of forgot about it. By the time I got back to the kitchen, some of my poor tortellinis began to unravel. After that first mishap, I brought the soup up to just before a boil (keeping a careful eye on it) and it re-heated just fine. Lesson learned.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. When melted, add the celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes until vegetables begin to soften.
Add the broth, water, and mushrooms and increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. When broth boils, add salt (to taste), black pepper, dried basil and Worcestershire; stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, simmer until mushrooms are soft, about 15 minutes. Add tortellini and cook according to package directions for al dente (usually around 3 minutes).
Once the tortellini is cooked, stir to combine and garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano if desired.
Wow, can you believe that it’s November already? Where did this last month go? I’m going to have to think about Christmas shopping pretty soon. *shutters* Not my favorite activity. I’m impatient enough as it is, and when you throw in screaming children and long lines of people at the checkout counters, it gives me nightmares.
Anywho, let’s talk about more positive things… like chilly weather and comfort foods.
I made this vegetarian penne last weekend for my community symphony. This pasta is rich and not for the feint of heart, and absolutely perfect for feeding many hungry mouths. It’s packed with lots of vegetables masked by luscious cream, gorgeous garlic and bubbly cheese. Words that speak straight to my heart.
Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the onion, summer squash, zucchini, mushrooms and garlic in butter until tender.
In a small bowl, whisk the flour, seasonings and cream until smooth; add to the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Drain pasta and add to vegetable mixture and gently stir everything together. Pour the pasta into a greased square pan. Top with Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 20 minutes.
I tripled this recipe for a potluck I attended and baked the pasta in a 9 x 13-inch pan instead.
I had been craving a southwestern style egg roll for weeks when we finally took a trip to Perkins Restaurant. Back in the day when I worked there, their mini chimi’s were one of my favorite things to munch on as the wee hours of the morning ticked on. I had finally been away long enough that the food was appetizing again, which was made apparent by my insatiable craving.
To my disappointment, Perkins took the chimi’s off of their menu. That figures huh? At least it motivated me to finally try to make these on my own. These turned out super flavorful and were easy to make. The filling is bursting with protein filled beans and vegetables but you could add some lean shredded chicken to this mix too. The least healthiest part about these egg rolls is the deep fry. You can opt to spray these with some non-stick cooking spray and bake them at 425 degrees F for 14-15 minutes (flipping halfway) instead but I’m a crunch FIEND and generally prefer that deep fry crunch. Yum!
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions, and cook until tender. Stir in spinach, corn, black beans, and lime juice. Season with salt and cumin. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese.
Place 1/4 cup of filling in the center of each egg roll wrapper. Fold in the sides, and roll egg rolls; dampen the edges with a small amount of water to seal.
In a large heavy skillet, heat enough vegetable oil to cover egg rolls over medium-high heat. Working in batches, carefully place egg rolls in hot oil, and cook until golden brown. Remove to paper towels.
For the Jalapeno Ranch Dip:
Place the first seven ingredients in a blender; cover and process until smooth. Chill until serving. Serve with chicken wings and, if desired, celery. Yield: 2-1/4 cups.
Wear disposable gloves when you're working with jalapeno peppers.
I recently ordered a fresh pack of canning jars and I could not wait to break into them! I squealed like a little girl when Mister brought them into the apartment. I was finally going to pickle something!
Now, I’m not anti-pickling or anything. I understand that pickling is fairly simple (vinegar, sugar and various spices make a tasty batch of vegetables) but I’ve always imagined that you need loads of space in order to can anything (like a garage or a big pantry). One day it hit me – why don’t I just make small batches instead? Doy…
I’m a big fan of ginger and carrot flavors and had to try to incorporate ginger into this pickling mix some how. I added a few teaspoons of minced ginger to add that Asian zing. It’s only been 24 hours since I’ve pickled these carrots but I like how they turned out already. I can’t wait to see how the flavors meld as time goes on. One vegetable down, so many more to go. Watch out world!
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel, dill, or anise seeds (See Note)
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons minced ginger
Cut the carrots into stick approximately the size of your fourth finger. Bring a medium-sized pot of lightly-salted water to a boil. (Use a non-reactive pot.)
When the water boils, drop the carrots in and simmer for one minute. Pour into a colander and rinse under cold water. Drain thoroughly.
In the same pot, heat the remaining ingredients. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for two minutes.
Remove from heat and add the carrot sticks. Cool until room temperature, then put into jars and chill.
Carrot sticks should be made at least one day in advance, and will keep for up to four weeks in the refrigerator.
The original recipe called for 1 1/2 tablespoons dill or fennel seeds (in later incarnations.) I found the flavor way, way too strong and reduced it. But feel free to use their original quantities. Carrots will keep, chilled in an airtight container, 1 month.
Although all of us enjoy indulging in comfort food dishes from time to time, there are those moments when we feel completely guilty for consuming 1,000 calories in one sitting. If you’re anything like me, that feeling passes relatively quickly but the thought DOES cross my mind.
Cooking at home gives me the chance to control what I eat and it also provides the opportunity for me to make healthier alternatives to my favorite “heavy” meals, including this one.
A lot of times the eggplant in eggplant Parmesan is deep-fried to get that super breaded texture. You can achieve the same amount of crispy tenderness by baking your eggplant instead. This way you don’t have to sacrifice flavor to eat a healthier version of eggplant Parm.
The best part of this dish has to be the marinara sauce. This red sauce is my absolute favorite and you guessed it, I use Italian Plum Tomatoes for the recipe. Absolutely drool-worthy!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tablespoons water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, oregano, and basil; season with salt and pepper.
Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well; place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices; continue baking until browned on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven; raise oven heat to 400 degrees.
Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Use half eggplant and half zucchini for this recipe for added vegetables. You can also make this ahead of time by arranging everything in your baking dish, refrigerating it overnight, bringing it back to room temperature and then baking.
I often order edamame at sushi bars. A bowl of edamame is an invitation to play with your food. Pick it up with your fingers, suck out the delicious seeds that live inside of that tough, outer-shell, and lick your fingers clean. The only thing that can make edamame better is a delicious sauce that you toss the edamame in. This is my humble opinion of course.
This sauce takes seconds to whip up and for this American-Asian, these are ingredients that are typically lying around in my fridge and pantry.
Le sigh… it’s been a very hot summer. Even still, I feel like it’s flown by. It’s almost the end of Summer now. Do you know what that means? It’s almost the end of zucchini season too. Say a little prayer for these guys and devour ’em.
Zucchini alone can be a bit bland. They’re due for roasting, or sauteeing, or do what I did here, and stuff them with oodles of deliciousness.
I found these San Marzano Italian plum tomatoes at the European Market and I had an overwhelming urge to make red sauce… immediately! It was like someone possessed my body , sped my car home, chopped onions and made this sauce. Before I knew it, I had amazing marinara sauce to use for these zucchinis.
Look how happy she is. That’s because she makes some damn fine tomatoes! I have to say, after I made marinara sauce with these tomatoes, I’ve never wanted any other marinara sauce ever again. They’re THAT good!
My marinara recipe changes a bit every time I make it, but the basics never change:
I’ve also added balsamic vinegar, cayenne, bell peppers, and mushrooms to my sauce depending on my mood.
Make your sauce, stuff some zucchinis then save the remaining sauce for another day. The flavors really meld after a day or two. And of course, you can use store bought red sauce for this recipe if you’d like a quicker version.
Mushrooms, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, optional
For the Rest:
Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Toss in onions, garlic, red pepper (if using) and salt. Saute on medium/low heat until onions begin to sweat. Add in any optional vegetables. When onions are clear, pour in red wine and turn up the heat to boil of any alcohol. Add tomatoes, reamaining seasonings, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Top with fresh basil, cover and let simmer on very low for 30-60 minutes. Stir your sauce occasionally or it will stick to the bottom of your pot.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the tough ends of the zucchinis off and cut each in half, lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet sliced side-up and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, spoon marinara sauce into each boat and bake the boats for 15 minutes. After the zucchinis have baked for 15 minutes, sprinkle the cheese over the zucchinis and return to oven until the cheese is melted and golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
*times do not include cook time for homemade marinara sauce