Creamy Chile con Queso

Creamy Chile con Queso

A processed cheese product (like Velveta) is often used in making Queso because it melts more smoothly. Using evaporated milk in this recipe helps the “real” cheese melt smoother and makes for a creamier consistency. The results are pretty fantastic. You can use your favorite milder, harder cheese (like Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, or a Mexican cheese blend) in this recipe, but don’t use cheeses like Mozzarella, Brie, Swiss, or Goat Cheese (or obviously, Bleu Cheese).

This Queso keeps well for several days in the fridge. It reheats very well too. You can just zap it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until warmed through.

A simple dish of Chile con Queso with tortilla chips is wonderful, but you can take it to greater heights with the addition of toppings. Queso can be serious business. One of my favorite restaurants in Austin, Texas is Magnolia Café. They have the best Queso ever. Their Mag Queso is topped with avocado and Pico de Gallo. It’s amazing! The Kerbey Queso at Kerbey Lane Cafe in Austin is great too. I have also had Queso with shredded BBQ brisket, refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, and Pico that was delicious. There are no limits.

Chile con Queso

Creamy Chile con Queso

2 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 -2 jalapenos, to taste, seeds removed, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (mild Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Mexican cheese blend, etc…)
1/2 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained
salt, to taste
dash garlic powder
1 – 4 tablespoons milk, if necessary

tortilla chips

Possible Toppings:
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh onion, chopped
fresh avocado, diced (or guacamole)
fresh tomatoes, diced
pickled jalapeno slices
Pico de Gallo
sour cream
black beans, warmed
refried beans
shredded brisket, chicken, pork
cooked ground beef or sausage

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the evaporated milk a little at a time, whisking well to dissolve flour lumps. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the shredded cheese, a little at a time. Continue to whisk until all of the cheese is added and the Queso is smooth. Add the drained diced tomatoes, salt, and garlic powder. If the Queso is too thick, you can add a little milk, about a tablespoon at a time, to thin to desired consistency. Serve the Queso warm, topped with desired toppings (I like fresh avocado, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, and chopped tomatoes) alongside tortilla chips.

 

 

 


Hot Cheesesteak Dip

Hot Cheesesteak Dip

I made this hot dip to take to a New Year’s Eve party. It’s super rich and loaded with beef and cheese. Paired with toasted baguette slices, it tastes just like a cheesesteak sandwich, although not exactly like the cheesesteaks we had in Philadelphia. Cheez Whiz, not provolone, was the “cheese” on the cheesesteaks we had in Philly.  I’m glad I took this to a party and shared it with other people. I could easily see myself eating the whole thing.

Hot Cheesesteak Dip 2

Hot Cheesesteak Dip

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded, quartered, and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cups provolone or a mix of provolone and mozzarella, shredded (I found a shredded provolone and mozzarella mix at Target)
8 ounces roast beef (from the grocery store’s deli), sliced thin (not shaved, but not too thick)
salt and pepper, to taste

Baguettes, sliced (and toasted if you like)

Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the sliced onion and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until veggies are tender and starting to caramelize. There will be browned spots on the vegetables and that’s fine. Add the minced garlic and cook one minute more. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit while you prepare the rest of the dip.

In a large bowl, mix the softened cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, provolone cheese together. Season with salt and pepper (I added about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper). Mix in the cooked onion and pepper mixture. Coarsely chop the roast beef and add to the dip. Mix well to combine. Pour the mixture into a small baking dish that has been lightly coasted with cooking spray.

Bake at 375° F. for 20 minutes, or until heated through and slightly browned around the edges. Serve with toasted sliced baguette.

You can prepare this dip up to a day in advance. Cover the dish with foil and place in the refrigerator until ready to bake.


Queso

IMG_2073 (640x480)

I’m a Texan so when I think of chile con queso I automatically think of Velvetta and Rotel. I’m perfectly fine with admitting that. That stuff tastes good. Normally, I would look down my nose at a processed “cheese food” product, but it really is essential for the smooth texture of a Texas-style queso.

I would love to create the perfect Texas-style queso without using processed cheese. I have tried. Over the years, I have made many different versions. Some turned out well, some didn’t. This particular version turned out fine, maybe even better than fine. I even reheated leftovers in the microwave the next day and it was still fine. Sometimes when using “real” cheese to make queso it can clump up or become a stringy, greasy mess. I didn’t have that problem with this version.  Make sure to lower the heat and stir a lot to make the queso smooth (although it won’t be smooth like a queso made with processed cheese). You can add more milk if needed.

I love chunks of fresh avocado (and even pico de gallo) in my queso. You can add other ingredients like black beans, chili, chopped fajita meat, or cooked ground beef to make the queso a little more substantial.

Queso

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely minced (you can substitute pickled jalapeno or roasted poblanos)
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeds removed, and finely chopped (or use1 – 2 tablespoons canned diced tomatoes)
4 teaspoons flour
8 ounces of cheddar and monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a bowl, toss the cheeses with the flour and set aside. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and then stir in the cheese and milk. Lower the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve immediately with tortilla chips.


Anthony Bourdain’s Baked Macaroni

I have never made/baked macaroni this way. I usually make a bechemel type sauce, add shredded cheddar cheese to make a creamy cheese sauce to mix with cooked macaroni (I usually also toss in steamed broccoli or cauliflower too). I almost never bake my macaroni.  Anyway, I wanted to try this method.  I cut this recipe out of some magazine years ago and saved it because I enjoy Anthony Bourdain’s shows (A Cook’s Tour and No Reservations) and books.  The recipe was easy to put together, but I thought it turned out kinda greasy, dry, and lacking flavor.  I didn’t really care for the crunchiness of the mac either.  It just wasn’t what I am used to.  So, I will stick to my version of macaroni and cheese which always turns out creamy and excellent.

Anthony Bourdain’s Baked Macaroni

1 lb macaroni, such as elbow or penne
3/4 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
16 ounces (about 4 cups) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 T. butter
1 quart (4 cups of whole milk

Cook pasta in boiling water 3 to 5 minutes less than package directs.  Drain well.

Meanwhile heat oven 400 degrees and grease a 13 X 9-inch baking dish.

Spread about 1/3 of the pasta in the prepared dish.  Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt, some pepper, and 1/3 of the cheese.  Dot with 1/2 T. butter.  Repeat layers twice, dotting the top layer with 1 T. butter.  Don’t tamp down the pasta; it will make the dish too dense.  Pour milk over top.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how crisp you like the top.


King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken is a casserole named after the King Ranch in South Texas.  I don’t think the recipe originated at that famous cattle ranch, though.  It’s one of those regional recipes that has numerous variations.  Most  versions are made with canned cream-of-whatever soup.  I have never actually eaten (or made) King Ranch Chicken before, but I was curious as to why this dish endures in popularity (in Texas, at least).  What I have found out since making this King Chicken Ranch recipe I got from www.texascooking.com is that it is much like an enchilada casserole.  It’s familiar and comforting, but not too spicy.  This recipe is good. I followed it as written except  that I microwaved the tortillas to soften them instead of briefly frying them in oil and I added 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin to the sauce.   There are a few additional changes I would make if I make this casserole again.  First, I would use milk instead of buttermilk.  I didn’t enjoy the twang so much.  I would also use black olives instead of green or use less of the green.  I love green olives, but the flavor in this recipe was a little overpowering even for my tastes.  This casserole supposedly freezes well.

King Ranch Chicken

3 tablespoons butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup buttermilk
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium poblano, chopped
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped (or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, drained)
2 tablespoons chopped pimientos

8 corn tortillas
3 to 4 cups cooked, diced chicken
1/3 cup sliced green olives
1/3 cup green onions, including tops, chopped
2 cup grated Longhorn or mild cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish or 3-quart casserole.

Make the Sauce:
Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and chili powder, and sauté for a minute or two. Raise the heat to medium. Quickly sprinkle in the flour and stir to mix. Pour in a small amount of the chicken broth, stirring constantly to remove lumps and allowing the flour to “cook” briefly.

Gradually add the remaining chicken broth and the buttermilk and continue stirring until sauce has thickened, 3 or 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sauce may be prepared in advance and refrigerated.

Make the Filling:
Warm a heavy skillet over medium heat, add the butter or olive oil, and sauté the chopped onion, green pepper, poblano, mushrooms, tomatoes and pimientos until onion is transparent, about 4 or 5 minutes. Fold into the mixture the diced chicken, olives and green onions, combining well. Remove from heat.

Assembling the Dish:
In a small skillet, heat about about half an inch of canola oil. Using tongs, dip the tortillas in the hot oil one at a time, for just a few seconds, so that they are softened. Cover the bottom of your baking dish with 4 of the softened tortillas. Layer the remaining ingredients in the following order:
Half of the chicken/vegetable mixture
Half of the grated cheese
Half of the sauce
The remaining 4 softened tortillas
The remaining chicken/vegetable mixture
The remaining grated cheese
The remaining sauce

Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F until casserole is heated through and bubbly. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: Possible substitutions: A small can of Ro-Tel© tomatoes and chiles for the tomatoes and poblano, OR a small can of green chiles for just the poblano.


Tor-pea-does

Tor-pea-does

My dad concocted tor-pea-does many years ago.  Hot black-eyed peas topped with shredded cheese and salsa, wrapped up in warm corn tortillas.  In addition to the cheese and salsa, I like to add pickled jalapenos and sour cream to mine.  Tor-pea-does are such a comforting dish.  Simple, quick, inexpensive, and a delightful mesh of flavors.

Tor-pea-does bring back good memories from my childhood….my family sitting around the table playfully boasting about how many tor-pea-does we could eat.  I can eat 4!  Well, I can eat 5!  Oh yeah, I can eat 6!  Fun times.  Tor-pea-does are an all-time favorite and a dish that I hold dear.

I make sure to keep a few cans of black eyed peas and fresh corn tortillas in the pantry for this quick meal.

You don’t really need a recipe for tor-pea-does…just heat up some black eyed peas, throw them in a warmed corn tortilla (you can zap it in the microwave for 15 seconds or toast in a hot pan), and then top with cheese and salsa (add sour cream, cilantro, jalapenos, or anything else you would like).  Don’t overfill or the whole thing will fall apart (if that happens, just bust out the fork).


Broccoli Cheese Soup

Broccoli Cheese Soup

broccoli cheese soup

From March 18, 2005:  I love broccoli cheese soup and have tried many recipes over the years. This one is by far the easiest and best tasting recipe i have tried. Oh, and it’s done in less than 10 minutes. Feel free to add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the soup to give it a little kick.

I’m thinking that this soup would work well with cauliflower too. I’m going to try it instead of broccoli next time I make it because I also love cauliflower cheese soup. Brussel sprouts would also be good in this soup.  I’ll have to try that too.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 (10 oz.) box frozen chopped broccoli
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk (or more)
salt to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Cook broccoli according to package directions (I did it in the microwave).  In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and then add the 2 tablespoons of flour, whisk 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk and salt until smooth and bubbling.  Whisk in grated cheese until melted and smooth.  If the soup is too thick, whisk in a little more milk until you get the consistency you like.  Add broccoli and bring back up to desired temperature.


Broccoli-Cheese Quiche

broccoli - cheese quiche

From December 18, 2005:  This is one of my favorite quiche recipes.  It’s very easy to make, especially when using a pre-made pie crust.  Pay attention when buying pre-made pie crusts, most contain lard (yuck!).  I bought Mrs. Smith’s brand and was happy with it.  I bake the pre-made pie crust a few minutes before adding the egg mixture, but you don’t have to do that.  To lighten the quiche a bit, I use 3/4 c. cream and 3/4 c. milk (you could use half and half instead of cream and milk).  This quiche is perfect for brunches and parties.  although I like mine warm, it tastes great at room temperature as well.

Broccoli – Cheese Quiche

pastry for 10-inch single pie crust
1-1/2 cups chopped broccoli
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper

Arrange broccoli and cheese in pastry-lined pan. Beat together eggs, cream, and spices in bowl. Pour the custard mixture over cheese and broccoli. Place in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden brown and knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean.

Yield: 8 main dish servings.


Zucchini Pie

Zucchini Pie

This savory dinner pie is good eats and is sure to become a favorite.  It’s kind of like a quiche but without the crust (and the added calories a crust brings with it).   Sometimes I use cilantro instead of basil, parsley, or chives and really liked that addition (I love cilantro). Basil is really nice too. I’ve made zucchini pie many, many times and almost never the same way twice. I have never messed it up. Do your thing and leave me a comment to let me know how it turned out.

This is a perfect dish to take to a potluck or picnic. It tastes great at room temperature. Zucchini pie is also great as a light dinner or lunch served with a tossed salad.

I got this recipe from my friend, Donna.  Many of her recipe notes are included.

Zucchini Pie (2)

Zucchini Pie

3 cups grated zucchini (about 2 large zucchinis)
1 carrot, grated
1 small onion chopped
1 cup flour (a gluten-free flour blend can be used)
1 cup grated provolone or mild cheddar cheese (soy or rice cheese work fine)
1/4 cup canola or or vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons chopped basil, parsley or chives (dried or fresh)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (regular or sea salt will work fine too)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Spoon zucchini mixture into a 10 inch glass pie or quiche plate (a small rectangular or square casserole dish works too) that has been coated with vegetable cooking spray.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

Zucchini Pie (3)