Spicy Chorizo Queso

Last week Justin Timberlake said “it’s gonna be May” and just like that, here we are rolling into Cinco de Mayo. Last year’s cinco celebrations were a bit bleak thanks to Covid quarantine and a general dismal state of mind. We are feeling much more festive this year and ready for any type of party (literally). We are starting off our menu with this Spicy Chorizo Queso and have to admit we are pretty obsessed with it. We use a variety of ingredients to bring the heat, including fresh jalapeños, pickled jalapeños, chorizo sausage, and chili powder. Unlike a lot of recipes you see out there, we add the chorizo into the queso (hence the red color). It might not be quite as photogenic but it is bursting with flavor. The final result is a complex combo of flavors that have us wanting to eat the entire bowl and calling it dinner. We won’t judge if you go that route as well.

Spicy Chorizo Queso

  • Servings: 8-10
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A queso that is perfect for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations or any gathering in need of a spicy dip.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz chorizo
  • 1 jalapeño, stem and seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup gently packed, shredded chihuahua cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • pickled jalapenos, for garnish
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a medium sized pot over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo (removing any casing) and cook until the chorizo is just cooked through. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon into a bowl and drain all but 1 tbs of the fat from the pot.
  2. Put the pot back on the heat and reduce to the heat to medium. Add the jalapeno, garlic, and onion to the pot. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the cumin, chili powder, and half and half to the pot.
  3. When the half and half starts to simmer, add about 1/3 of the cheese and stir well with a whisk to combine. When the first batch of cheese is melted, add another 1/3 and whisk to combine. Repeat with the remaining 1/3 of the cheese and again, whisk until the sauce is completely combined. Use a slotted spoon to add all but 2 tbs of the chorizo back to the pot. You want to leave behind any fat that drained while it was resting. Reduce the heat of the pot to low and let the sauce cook for 10 minutes. Whisk occasionally to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer the queso to a large serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining 2 tbs of chorizo, lots of fresh cilantro, and pickled jalapenos. Serve with your favorite chips for dipping.


Beer & Cheese Bread

While this Beer & Cheese Bread was originally inspired by St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, it is such a versatile bread that it pairs well with just about everything from chili to barbecue. What we love most about this recipe is how well the contrasting flavors in the bread work together. The beer adds a natural fizz to the bread, which keeps it really light and airy while it bakes. The hoppy taste from the beer also gives it a nice sour punch, which complements all of the melted sharp cheddar cheese. The secret to this recipe is the melted butter. Adding it in two stages gives the bread a crispy, chewy crust that is to die for. If no one was around we would cut the whole crust away and devour it straight out of the pan.

Beer & Cheese Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
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One of our favorite quick bread recipes! Although it is inspired by St. Patrick’s Day, it pairs well with everything from chili to barbecue.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups (13.5 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (4 oz) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 (12 oz) bottle lager-style beer
  • 2 tbs melted butter, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the onions are caramelized. Add a bit of freshly cracked pepper and remove from the heat.
  3. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine and make a well in the center. Add the onions, cheese and beer to the flour, stirring until just combined. The dough will be sticky.
  4. Scoop the batter into a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan that is coated with cooking spray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the melted butter on top of the batter. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle the remaining tablespoon of butter over the top. Bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the center is baked through.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan onto a wire rack and cool completely. Slice and serve with butter.


Valentine’s Day Cheese Board For Two

When coming up with our 2021 Valentine’s Day Menu, we admit , we were feeling a bit indulgent. We know that most couples will be spending Valentine’s Day in their own homes this year, so we wanted a meal that felt decadent and different than just an average weeknight dinner. We are starting our menu with the appetizer course, a cheese board for two. The best part of this cheese board is that the ingredients fit seamlessly to be an appetizer or a dessert board depending on your preferences. As with all cheese boards, you can mix this up however you like, and we encourage you to use ingredients you already have at home. As an appetizer, we recommend more savory ingredients like bacon jam and mixed nuts. For dessert, you can incorporate chocolate, candies and any other sweet treats you crave.

Valentine's Day Cheese Board

  • Servings: 2
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The perfect appetizer or dessert cheese board for two!

Ingredients

  • 1 small brie wheel
  • 1 brick sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup raspberry or strawberry jelly
  • grapes
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • blueberries
  • peanuts
  • chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Prepare the cheese. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out a heart in the center of the brie wheel. Discard the heart (by eating in while you prepare the board) and place the brie in the center of your cheese board. Cut out “I” and “U” shaped letters from the cheddar cheese brick. Place them on each side of the brie wheel.
  2. Assemble the cheese board. Surround the I ❤ U with the grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peanuts and chocolate. We like to have a mix of the foods all over the board to have a range of color and texture throughout. Be sure to incorporate the snacks you like and enjoy with your loved ones!


Cheesy Baked Penne

We love a good comfort food recipe and are particularly fond of this cheesy baked penne. We recently had a friend who was ill, and to lend a helping hand, we prepared this recipe to send to his house. In the days of social distancing, dinner on the doorstep is an easy gesture for someone that could use some TLC. We love this dish because it has a little bit of everything including sausage and loads of cheese. You can make it and bake it all in one batch as the recipe describes below, or you can refrigerate it before baking and either deliver it to a friend or save it for yourself for later. It appeals to even the pickiest of eaters, so it’s great if you are looking for a kid friendly meal to add to your recipe rotation!

Cheesy Baked Penne

  • Servings: 6
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Our version of comfort food! We love making this penne on cold nights or to leave for a friend to bake later.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, removed from the casing (spice level is up to you)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 15 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbs dried basil
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh basil for garnish, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring a large stock pot full of salted water to a boil. When the water is rapidly boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente. Strain the pasta and place the pasta back in the pot you cooked it in.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook to brown, about 5 minutes. Use your spatula to break the sausage up into bite sized pieces. When the sausage has browned (it doesn’t have to be cooked through), remove it from the pan into a bowl for later use. You want to leave about 2 tbs of fat from the sausage in the pot, if there is any. If there isn’t add the 2 tbs olive oil and let it get warm.
  4. Add the onion to the pot; sauté for 4 minutes, or until the onions start to become translucent. Add the garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato paste to the pan and sauté for another 3-4 minutes- this helps caramelize and bring out the sweetness of the tomato paste.
  6. Add the next 4 ingredients (whole tomatoes – dried oregano) to the pot. Give everything a good stir and bring the sauce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavors develop. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce into an even consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the sausage back to the sauce. Remove 1 cup of the sauce and 1 cup of the ricotta and toss it with the pasta. It’s okay if the pasta is at room temperature at this point, as it is all going in the oven.
  8. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer the pasta in the baking dish. Use a spoon to put dollops of the remaining ricotta cheese throughout the pasta. Top the pasta with the tomato sauce, shaking the pan or using a spatula to dig the sauce into all the crevices of the pasta. Top the sauce with the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover the baking dish.**
  9. Bake the penne for 20 minutes covered and another 10 minutes uncovered. Top with fresh basil, if desired. Let the pasta rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  10. ** At this point, you can refrigerate the penne and bake at a later time. If you are cooking the penne from a refrigerated temperature, bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes; 30 minutes covered and 10-15 minutes uncovered so that the cheese is melted and bubbly. Rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.



Cheesy Stone Ground Grits

Does anyone else love the grits from Waffle House as much as we do? How could you not! Based on the amount of road trips we have taken in our lifetime, we know that there is just something so satisfying about grits at a pit stop on an early morning drive. When the weather is cold and we are stuck indoors, cheesy, creamy grits are the ultimate side dish to just about any entrée – breakfast, lunch or dinner. Our version of grits takes about 30 minutes to make, but we think that they are well worth the effort. Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting some of our favorite dishes that pair perfectly with this classic side dish.

Cheesy Stone Ground Grits

  • Servings: 4
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Our ultimate, guilty-pleasure side dish that pairs well with just about everything!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken stock (you can substitute water if you want this vegetarian)
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 cup stone ground grits
  • 2 cups 2% milk, warmed in the microwave
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated and separated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Bring the chicken stock and butter to a boil in a medium sauce pot. Add the grits, stir well, and reduce to a low heat so that the grits are on a slow simmer. Cover the grits and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the grits do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. After 15 minutes, add the milk and 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese to the grits. Stir well and again, keep covered on a low simmer for another 15 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the grits do not stick to the bottom of the pan and they cook evenly.
  3. When the grits have finished cooking, give them a really good stir so that all of the liquid is absorbed. Season the grits to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot with the remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese over top.


Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole

We had good friends over for brunch a few weekends ago and went to work brainstorming a delicious menu. It’s so easy to gravitate towards the same recipes over and over, so we wanted to break out of our shell and mix things up! For the main dish of our brunch menu, we chose to go with this Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole instead of shakshuka or quiche. We have thrown the whole kitchen sink in this bad boy, so has protein, carbs, and veggies all in one. We cut back on some of the cheese content compared to other recipes, so while indulgent, it isn’t as calorie heavy as some of the other recipes that you will find online. It’s a great anchor for any brunch menu, as you can mix and match the “add in” ingredients to suit any flavor profile you want to match!

Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole

  • Servings: 8
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A perfect anchor for any brunch menu. Feel free to mix and match the add ins with your favorite ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian sausage or breakfast sausage of your choice
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, seeds and stem removed and diced
  • 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 3/4 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 4 oz green chiles
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a large pyrex baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sausage to the pan and brown on all sides, for roughly 6 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside on a cutting board.
  3. Add the olive oil and diced onion to the pan. Cook the onions until they start to caramelize, about 4 minutes. Chop the sausage into bite sized pieces and add it back into the pan with 3/4 of the bell peppers. Cook until the sausage is cooked through and the peppers have softened, another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. Make the egg mixture. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and garlic powder. Add the grated potatoes and 1 cup of the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you are worried that it isn’t seasoned enough, you can pull a bit of the mixture out and fry it in a pan to taste. Add the green chiles and sausage mixture to the egg and potato mixture, mix well to combine.
  5. Pour the mixture into your baking dish and spread everything into an even layer. Top with the remaining shredded cheese and bell peppers, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil after 45 minutes and bake another 10 minutes to melt the cheese. Wait a few minutes out of the oven before serving so that the casserole can set. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.


Mac & Brie

We only started having mac and cheese on Thanksgiving a few years ago, when our dad was inspired by a Cajun macaroni recipe he saw online and insisted on bringing it for dinner. After its introduction on our Thanksgiving plates, we couldn’t imagine another Thanksgiving without one of our all time favorite side dishes. We have a few variations of mac and cheese on our blog (Hatch Chile and Cauliflower) but what we like about this recipe is just how simple and classic it is. We have aptly named this variation Mac & Brie for the big pieces of melty brie cheese that have snuck into this recipe. Cheesy? Creamy? Brie-filled? Yes, yes, and yes. Sounds like our version of a perfect Thanksgiving menu addition.

Mac & Brie

  • Servings: 8-10
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A decadent way to level up your side dish game on Thanksgiving and beyond.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 circle of brie (8 oz), rind removed and cubed

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Cook the elbow macaroni a few minutes less than the directions on the macaroni indicate so that the pasta is al dente. Strain and set aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk continuously. The flour will form a paste. While continuously whisking, slowly pour in the milk, one cup at a time. Stir and heat for 3-5 minutes or until the milk starts to thicken.
  4. Stir in the white cheddar and mozzarella until the cheese is fully melted and the milk and cheese form a thick sauce. Fold in the elbow macaroni and remove from the heat. Season to taste salt and pepper.
  5. In a greased 8×12 baking dish, pour in the macaroni and cheese mixture in an even layer. Place the brie cheese cubes throughout the mac and cheese.
  6. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the brie is fully melted and the mac and cheese is bubbling. If the top of the cheese and pasta is starting to get too brown, cover with foil and continue to cook. Serve immediately.


Pesto & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

As the weather starts turning cooler, we find that we start craving warm and hearty meals. One of our favorite family meals is stuffed shells. There are so many different ways to customize a stuffed shells recipe; you can incorporate the protein of your choice or add vegetables to get your greens in. For this version, we have chosen to incorporate ground beef, pesto and ricotta. We love the flavor combination of pesto and ricotta. The pesto brings in an herby freshness and the ricotta adds creaminess and unctuousness to the dish. This recipe can be prepared in advance and baked just as your family or friends come over for dinner. Serve this with our Kale Salad: Autumn Edition and you have balanced, full dinner.

Pesto and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Makes: 8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 2, 28oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbs salt

Ingredients for the Shells:

  • 1 package jumbo pasta shells
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup basil, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Make the sauce. In a large pot, sauté the ground beef until it is cooked through. Set aside in a bowl but do not drain the fat. Add the garlic and parsley and saute in the beef fat for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce, water and salt and bring to a simmer. Add the beef back into the sauce and keep on simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes.
  2. While the sauce is simmering, cook your shells according to package directions. When the shells are cooked to al dente, rinse them with cold water. You will want them to be cooled before stuff them.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350.
  4. Create the filling. Combine the ricotta, pesto, egg, basil and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Season with salt and pepper. Put the mixture in a large Ziploc bag and cut the tip off the corner of the bag. Use the bag to pipe the mixture into each shell.
  5. Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with a layer of the sauce. Add the stuffed shells on top of the sauce in an even layer. Fill the rest of the dish with the sauce and top with the mozzarella. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and bubbly.

Eggplant Caprese Salad

It has been a labor of love, but we are finally getting eggplant to grow in our garden! We love to cook this seasonal veggie by lightly seasoning it and grilling it. This version of eggplant is served in a caprese salad and pairs perfectly with the tomato and mozzarella cheese. This is an easy and delicious way to mix up a classic and makes for a hearty salad recipe. You can serve for the salad for lunch, as an appetizer, or a side dish for an Italian-inspired dinner. 

Eggplant Caprese Salad
Makes: 8 servings 
Prep Time: 15 minutes     Total Time: 15 minutes 

Ingredients For The Salad:

  • 1 eggplant slices in 1/4 inch rounds
  • 2 tbs olive oil 
  • 3 beefsteak tomatoes cut in 1/4 inch rounds 
  • 1 log of fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  • basil
  • salt 

Ingredients For The Dressing:

  • 1/2 balsamic vinaigrette 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper 

Directions 

  1. After slicing the eggplant, sprinkle salt on both sides of the pieces and set on paper towel for 15 minutes. This will help remove some of the excess moisture from the eggplant before you grill. 
  2. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat, about 450 degrees. 
  3. Drizzle olive oil over both sides of the eggplant and grill the slices on high for 2-3 minutes on each side so that the pieces are lightly charred and cooked through. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Prepare the dressing by whisking all of the ingredients together in a bowl. 
  5. Assemble the caprese by layering the eggplant, tomato and mozzarella across a long serving dish. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with fresh basil. Serve immediately. 

Tomato, Proscuitto, & Ricotta Bruschetta

A few months back we posted a recipe for how to make tomato confit, and we have been making it regularly ever since. The tomatoes can last up to four weeks in the refrigerator – just make sure they are completely cooled before they are sealed into a container. The tomatoes can also be frozen and used in recipes like our Angel Hair with Burrata & Tomatoes. We love to mix and match how we use them, and for this rendition we are using them as a bruschetta condiment. We love the combination of the sweet and herby tomatoes, the salty prosciutto, and the creamy whipped ricotta. You can serve this as an appetizer on baguette – we like to have everything separate on a board and let people assemble themselves- or use larger slices of bread for brunch or a light dinner. 

Tomato, Prosciutto, & Ricotta Bruschetta 
Makes: 16 appetizer pieces 
Prep Time: 1 hour if preparing the tomato confit    Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes 

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 recipe for tomato confit (you want to use 1 1/2 lbs of tomatoes)
  • 1 baguette, sliced on a bias into 16 slices 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • 1 container ricotta cheese (approx. 16 oz) 
  • 1/2 lb thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces 
  • 1 container of basil leaves, stems removed and roughly chopped 
  • balsamic glaze, for garnish 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Directions: 

  1. Prepare the tomato confit as instructed in the link above. Set aside and let the tomatoes cool to room temperature. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  3. Slice the baguette and drizzle the olive oil over top of the slices. Toss to coat on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until they are crispy. 
  4. Use a hand mixer to whip the ricotta on medium-high speed for at least two full minutes. You can use a whisk for this and do it by hand if you want a workout, but it will take a few more minutes. The ricotta should be light and fluffy and a visibly different texture than it was in the container. 
  5. Assemble the bruschetta by layering a spoonful of ricotta onto the bottom of the toast. Top with 2-3 tomatoes, a few pieces of prosciutto, and basil. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic glaze and serve immediately.