Saturday, January 31, 2015


I have been looking for a good Chile Con Queso dip for a long time.  I wanted a cheese dip that was smooth, creamy, cheesy, and flavored with spices and veggies like they have at some of the restaurants I go to.

I found this recipe in my little bag of torn out recipes.  I have been tearing out recipes for years but I haven't made many of them.  I decided to change that the other day and that is when I found a page copied out of a magazine that a friend gave to me.  It sounded just like what I wanted so I decided to make it last night.  For some reason, it turned out kind of gritty.  I thought about it this morning and talked to my son and decided I would make some changes.

This recipe is just a faint resemblance of the recipe I started out with.  It called for flour in the recipe to make a roux.  I did not add flour this time because I thought that might be what was causing it to be kind of gritty.  It called for Monterey Jack cheese and I used a combination of Monterrey Jack and White American cheeses.  I added fresh garlic and garlic powder along with some chopped celery. I used Half and Half instead of milk, but less of it and I added a little more butter and a half the beer that it originally called for.  So, now you see what I mean?  Instead of a making a recipe with a twist, it is a full 180! Haha!

You know what I really like about it besides the amazing flavor?  It is the fact that the dip does not sieze stays creamy....for hours.  I made it before going out with a friend.  We were gone for about 3 hours and when I got back it was still creamy....perfect texture.  I hate when I bring my left over chile con queso home from a restaurant and it turns into a brick.   

Well its late and I need to get to bed so here is the recipe!  Hope you like it!


3 tablespoons of Butter
1 (4 ounce) can Green Chiles, chopped
1 cup Onion, minced
1/4 cup celery, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup Half and Half
1/4 cup Beer, (I used Dos Equis)
4 ounces of Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
4 ounces of White American Cheese, shredded (found behind deli counter)
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
1-2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Tortilla Chips

1.  Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add green chiles, onion, celery, and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes or until all veggies are softenend.

2.  Pour in the Half and Half and stir until well blended

3.  Pour in the beer and let it cook for about a minute

4.  Add the shredded cheese, one handful at a time, making sure cheese melts before you add another handful.

5.  Stir in Cumin, Garlic Powder, and Salt.

6.  Serve with tortilla chips.



These are literally the best enchiladas I have ever had!  I am not even joking!  The first time I tried these enchiladas was at my friend, Stephanie's house.  She had made it for Bunco and before I left I asked her for the recipe.  This is only my second time to ever make them, but that is about to change.  Oh and I did not name this is just what it is called by America's Test Kitchen magazine.  I don't know if these are truly "authentic",  I just know they are delicioso : )

Honestly, I thought I remembered them taking longer than they really do.  I found a couple of time savers this time around and I will be making them way more often.  First of all, you can make some of this ahead of time and refrigerate.  Also, when it has to cook for 1-1/2 hours, instead of leaving them on top of the stove, place them in the oven or in a crock pot for the sauce to cook down and the meat to tenderize.

I love the flavor of the gravy so much.  It is soooo rich and flavorful.  That gravy holds nothing back. Oh and the smell in your will just die!  It smells AHHH-MAZING!!  This recipe makes 12 enchiladas using the smaller corn tortillas and going by the amounts in the recipe.  If you need more, this recipe is easy to just double, triple or quadruple.

This dish adds one layer of flavor after another.  It incorporates lot of fresh ingredients, as well as wonderful spices that make your taste buds wake up and take notice!  Don't skimp on any of the ingredients because each one is there for a reason.  They balance this dish and make you eat another enchilada when you are already full.  Yep, been there, done that!

Oh and one more thing, I found an amazing gadget last week at a little shop in Boerne, Texas called Kiss The Cook.  I use a lot of fresh herbs that require you to remove them from the stem.  It is so time consuming  that a lot of times I just chop up the stems too.  This gadget actually removes the leaves from the stem effortlessly.  Yesterday, I used it with the cilantro and it was so easy and quick to get just the leaves for this dish.  It has 8 holes of all different sizes.  There is a hole big enough for Kale and one small enough for Thyme.  I love it!!
End Product
Back to the dish!  These would be perfect for your Super Bowl party, dinner party, bunco, family dinners, etc.  I am sitting here thinking that all this talk about these enchiladas is making me hungry for one.  Hope you try won't be disappointed!


3 Garlic Cloves, minced (I doubled this because I love garlic)
3 tablespoons Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Ground Coriander
2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Sugar
Salt for seasoning meat
1-1/4 pounds Top Sirloin Steak or Top Blade Steak
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil (I used Canola)
2 onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
(1) 15 ounce can Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup Water
8 ounces Monterey Jack or Mild Cheddar Cheese, shredded (I used a Mexican Blend)
1/3 cup Fresh Cilantro
1/4 cup canned Pickled Jalapenos, chopped
(12) 6-inch Corn Tortillas

1.  Combine the garlic, chili powder, coriander cumin, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl.

2.  Pat the meat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
You only use 1 package

3.  Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Cook the meat until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes.  Transfer the meat to a plate.

4.  Add the onions to the pot and cook over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes.

Don't worry about the browned bits on the bottom of your dutch oven.  The moisture from the onions will steam them right off and into your base for a yummy addition to your gravy!

5.  Stir in the garlic mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

6.  Add the tomato sauce and water and bring to a boil.

7.  Return the meat and juices to the pot, cover, and reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer until the meat is tender and can be broken apart with a wooden spoon, about 1-1/2 hours.

Make sure your meat is completely submerged in the sauce.

NOTE:  I actually placed my dutch oven with the meat into the oven at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 hours and it was perfect.  You could also use a crock pot but since I have not done this personally, I cannot tell you a cooking guess would be 4-5 hours.

8.  Remove the meat from sauce, place in a dish and shred.  Reserve the sauce.

9.  Add 1 cup of the cheese, the cilantro and the jalapenos to the meat and mix well.

10.  Spread  a good amount of the sauce onto the bottom of a 13 X 9 baking dish.
11.  Microwave the corn tortillas, 6 at a time, in a dampened paper towel for about 20 seconds.
12.  Spread 1/3 cup of the meat mixture down the center of each tortilla (I just eyed this), roll the tortillas tight, and place in the dish.  Repeat this with the remaining tortillas and beef mixture (you may have to fit 2 or more enchiladas down the sides of the baking dish).
I used my hands to put the meat in the tortillas...that way I can get it just right.

13.  Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and spread to coat evenly.
14  Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheese evenly over the enchiladas, wrap with foil and bake at 350 degrees until heated through, 20-25 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking until the cheese browns slightly, 5-10 minutes more.

TIP:  Although it is best to roll and bake the enchiladas right before serving, the beef filling and sauce can be prepared ahead through Step 9 and refrigerated : )  Prepare the enchiladas and increase the baking time when dish is covered by 5 minutes.


Monday, January 26, 2015


Last March my grandson, Alex, had his first birthday party.  It was a farm themed party and soooo cute.  Alex had a birthday smash cake but my daughter and I made these cute little desserts out of empty baby food jars and served them to the children instead of birthday cakes or cupcakes.  It was so simple to do.  We used my pound cake recipe, topped with chopped, fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream.  We used a stamp to put the "happy birthday" on the wooden spoons. I purchased both from Etsy (it has been a year so I cannot remember which companies though).  Just look for mini wooden dessert spoons. Then we wrapped the spoon around the jar with decorative colored string.

It occurred to me that this dessert and idea would be perfect for bringing to a Super Bowl party.  For the Patriots, you could wrap the jar with blue and red string and still use the fresh strawberries.  For the Seahawks, you could use fresh blueberries and wrap the jar with blue and green string.  You could do a mixture if you are not sure who you want to win.

You have 6 days to hit up any friends who have small children to save their baby food jars so start now.  I think we made about 30.

This dessert is super easy and it looks so festive. 

One of the best parts is you could actually make your pound cake anytime this week, wrap it in saran wrap, and then put it in the freezer.  Take it out the night before and let it thaw.  Chop your strawberries and whip up some fresh whipped cream.  Blueberries just have to be rinsed.  If you don't want to make your own whipped cream you can use Cool Whip.  I will say though, there is a big difference between the two.  I would definitely go to the extra trouble.  It only takes about a minute or two.  Make sure no one throws their jars away.  Just pop them in the dishwasher and put them away for your next party!  These jars are so versatile.


Pound Cake (click here to go to my recipe)
Don't forget you can make this ahead and freeze, taking it out of the freezer the night before you  want to use it.

Strawberries (chopped into bite sized pieces)Blueberries, Raspberries (whatever fruit you like),

Fresh Whipped Cream (or Cool Whip)

Cube your pound cake into small, bite-size pieces (You may not need it all so I would just start with half of the cake.  Save the rest to serve in slices, if you like)

Place a dollop of fresh Whipped Cream into the bottom of the jar

Place a few pieces of cubed pound cake.

Gently spoon berries on top...leave room for the whipped cream.

Put a dollop of whipped cream on top of the berries.

Place a couple of chopped strawberries, blueberries or a raspberry on top.


1 cup of Whipping Cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put bowl that you will use to mix in into the freezer for at least 15 minutes with the beaters.

Take bowl out of freezer and pour in whipping cream, sugar and vanilla.

Beat on high until stiff peaks form.

Do not beat too long or it will become lumpy like butter.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Oh my goodness!  Could a savory dish be more rich and delicious???

This was only about my fifth time to even eat grits....and four of those have been within the past 6 months!  My son made them for me back in the summer and I was hooked.  I was only half watching when he made it and I still don't know quite how he makes his, but his are different than mine because of the ingredients.  The best part is you can add anything you would like to it or on top of it.  Last night, I made my Maryland Crab Cakes with a lemon-butter caper sauce to serve with it, but I am going to have to work on the sauce so I didn't post it.  
Since I was just starting out, I just added a couple of my favorite cheeses, some roasted corn and a few thinly sliced green onions...not too many.  I was thinking that next time I will add some bacon....I mean bacon takes everything up a notch....right?!?!  

Let me just say something about the cheeses I chose to use.  I love, love, love smoked gouda.  I love to grab a slice of it and eat it on a cracker.  I used Cream Havarti which is a little creamier than regular havarti because it has more cream in it....makes sense!  I like to cook with havarti because it is so mild and smooth and it melts really nicely.  I might even add some parmesan next time....maybe grated over the top would be nice.  I wonder what a mexican version would taste like?  You could maybe add some queso fresco and monterrey jack or pepper jack cheese to the grits and then top it with a dollop of salsa or pico de gallo.  Hmmmm???  May try that sometime soon!

Now for the corn!  Roasting corn is the easiest thing to do and kind of fun.  I like hearing the kernels pop, pop, pop! Don't cook it too long though, you definitely want the crunchiness but also the juiciness of the kernels.  

One of the best things about grits, is that it literally takes only about 10 minutes to cook!  Five minutes on the stove and about 5 minutes resting time.  I used a mixture of equal parts chicken broth and half and half.  Because I made mine a little ahead, I had to add some heavy cream before I served it.  Top it with a little of the roasted corn and thinly sliced green onion tops and you are done.

If you are tired of potatoes or rice and would like to try something different...try them.  I really think you cannot go wrong!


1-1/2 cups Chicken Broth  (1 can of Campbells's Chicken Broth is perfect)
1-1/2 cups Half and Half
1 cup Corn Grits
2 tablespoons of Salted Butter
1 cup Smoked Gouda
1 cup Cream Havarti
Heavy Cream (no certain amount...use to bring grits to consistency)
Charred Fresh Corn Kernels
Thinly Sliced Green Onion Tops
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring your chicken broth and half and half to boil over medium to high heat.

Pour in grits and turn heat to between medium and low.  Stir off and on for 5 minutes. 

Add butter and approximately 1/2 cup of corn kernels. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. 

Add the cheeses and stir until well incorporated.

I made this picture extra large so you can see all that stringy, melty cheese goodness!!

When ready to serve, add whipping cream or half and half to bring it to the consistency you would like.  

Top with roasted corn kernels and thinly sliced green onion tops.   

NOTE:  Great with some hot sauce sprinkled on or a dollop of Chili Garlic Paste


2 Fresh Ears of Corn (husk removed)

Place the ears of corn directly on a stovetop burner that is at medium to low heat.  

Watch as the kernels start to char.  

Turn every 30 seconds or so to keep from over cooking.

Don't be alarmed when you hear a popping's normal.

Stand the corn on end and remove the kernels with a knife running downward against the cob.


Monday, January 19, 2015


This spaghetti sauce is just perfect.  It is a perfect sauce to serve over your favorite pasta but it is also good to use with cabbage rolls, meatball subs, meatloaf, or anything else that might call for a tomato based sauce.  I got this recipe from a friend, who got it from a friend. who got it from a friend.  I don't know how far this goes back but all I know is I am glad I was on that friend list.

I have posted this tip on another post but I thought it could stand repeating.  When you do serve this sauce over pasta, be sure to add a substantial amount of olive oil to your pasta water to keep it from sticking (oh and don't forget to add salt).  My other tip to keep pasta from sticking is do not rinse but just add a little bit of sauce to the pasta....just enough to coat and even if you refrigerate them, they will not stick.

I am in a hurry today so not a lot of time to write so I am going to just leave it here.  Also, I have several meatball recipes that I like to use.  I have posted one and if you click on this link, it will take you there.  It is a post from when I made homemade spaghetti sauce from fresh tomatoes but if you will scroll all the way down the page, you will find the meatball recipe!  I will post another one when I get a chance....hopefully I can tonight!

Oh, and the first recipe here is for one recipe.  The recipe that follows is for about five times that amount.  I always make the second so I have some left over!


1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 small Yellow Onion, chopped
4 Garlic cloves, minced
1-12 ounce can Tomato Paste
3-1/2 cans Water
1-1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 cup Brown Sugar

NOTE; I usually take the above recipe and increase it so I can have it more than one time and some to freeze.  It is also great for large groups.  Here are the amounts if you would like to make more!

1/3/4 cups Olive Oil
4 regular size Yellow Onion, chopped
1/4 cup Garlic, minced
5-12 ounce cans tomato paste
3-4 quarts of water (I add 2 quarts and then add 1 quart at a time until I get it the consistency I want)
1/2 cup Brown Sugar

Saute onion and garlic in oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add tomato paste and water.  Stir well.
Increase heat and add remaining ingredients.
When boiling, reduce to low and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Note:  A regular recipe makes 4-1/2 cups sauce.



Sunday, January 18, 2015


I made this again and now I have some blueberries...yumm!

When I was a child, my Ma-Maw Allie came to live with us.  She was an amazing cook and I, unfortunately, was such a picky eater when I was little.  Ugh...why?  She would make everything from scratch....things  like Fried Apple Pies in a cast iron skillet, Watermelon Rind Preserves, fresh Pinto Beans, and I would not have any part of it.  However, I remember her delicious fried shrimp, her amazing gumbo, and especially the yummy breakfasts she would cook me every morning!  She would wake me up and ask me what I wanted for breakfast.  I mean how spoiled could I get?!  She made the best pancakes and french toast ever.  One of my favorite things she would make though,  was oatmeal.  I loved it with 2 slices of toast.  I was only 10 when she passed away and I hate that I never really helped her cook or tried to like the things that I thought I didn't like because now I would give anything to have one of her fried pies!  Maybe growing up watching her and enjoying her love for making things fresh is where my love of cooking and cooking things from scratch came from.  
My Ma-Maw Allie, my mom, and myself....circa 1970.  I was about 7 years old here.

I have always made my oatmeal like my Ma-Maw Allie made it and that is with water and no milk. Now, I love it that way but I think I have found a way that I love it even more!  When my husband James and I went to Colorado recently with our friends Pat and Nita Hughes, we stayed at The Sonnenalp, a beautifully quaint, cozy, Bavarian resort in Vail.  We ate breakfast in the hotel and they had the most wonderful breakfast buffet.  I usually hate buffets, but this one was exceptional.  If you wanted something, it was on this buffet.  It took up an entire room!  It was there that I tried their oatmeal.  It was so creamy and almost velvety.  They had every kind of topping you could want.  Before this day,  I had always just ate my oatmeal with butter and sugar, maybe sometimes blueberries and/cinnamon.  This place had every kind of fresh and dried fruit you could want, almonds, walnuts, pecans, brown sugar, white sugar, coconut, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
It was then that I tried some oatmeal that was the best I have ever eaten.  I could not figure out why it was so good until the other day.  I was at home and sick and watching Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network (I am obsessed).  That day she was making her Sunday Morning Oatmeal and it looked just like what I had had at the Sonnenalp.
My husband and I in the beautiful Sonnenalp dining solarium.

James and I with our friends Nita and Pat at the Maroon Bells in Aspen.  

Well, I made that oatmeal this past Saturday morning and it was de-li-cious.  Finally, I found what was was the milk.  Milk in the oatmeal...I had never made it that way before, but now I know that it is what set the oatmeal apart at the Sonnenalp.  Makes so much sense, too.  I mean, that is what made it so creamy and so full of flavor.  

Now, I am going to post the recipe exactly the way Barefoot Contessa makes it.  But...I did not add everything she added.  I did my own thing like at the Sonnenalp.  Barefoot Contessa does not add butter, but I did.  She adds bananas, raisins, and dried cherries but I didn't have any so I didn't add those.  She also uses Maple Syrup as her sweetener but I used brown sugar.  Then I added what I could find in my pantry like dried cranberries, blueberries, pecans, and brown sugar.  Next time, I want to add the bananas, dried cherries, maybe some fresh blueberries, some cinnamon, raisins, next time.  The options are limitless.  Don't forget to add a little sprinkle of kosher salt before you take your first bite.  I love how the sweet and salty complement each other.  My friend Nita always reminds me to do that!

Only negative thing I can say is that my husband likes it better the old way...with just water.  Uh-oh...he might have to have to learn to like it this way! 

(Exactly the way Barefoot Contessa makes it)

1-1/2 cups Whole Milk

2 cups Water
1-1/2 cups Quick Cooking Oats (not instant)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Banana, sliced
1/2 cup Dried Cherries
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
Pure Maple Sugar or Brown Sugar to sweeten

Heat the milk and water in a medium saucepan until it starts to simmer.

I know it doesn't call for butter but add me on this!

Add the oatmeal and salt, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Don't look for the banana because I didn't have one...(pic is so blurry you probably wouldn't see it anyway)

Off of the heat, stir in the banana, cherries, and raisins.  Place the lid on the pot and allow to sit for 2 minutes.

Serve hot with maple syrup or brown sugar and extra milk.