Restaurant Style Queso Blanco

Queso Blanco

My husband and I really love a good bowl of queso blanco. Whenever we go to a tex-mex restaurant, we have to order the queso, and it never fails to just hit the spot. Sometimes, I even wonder why I order a dinner…it’s the queso that I’m really after!

I really wanted to know what type of cheese was in the queso, so I’d research and various folks would mention mexican cheeses that I’ve never worked with, so I was intimidated. Plus, I tend to have trouble trusting people on random forums, like Yahoo! Answers. Why waste my time. Then, I saw a post on Confessions of a Foodie Bride about making this infamous queso, but the cheese totally threw me for a loop. White American? Really…that’s it? So, I had to give this a try, because I love Shawnda’s blog, and I knew she wouldn’t steer me wrong here.

Y’all, this is restaurant queso blanco. I’m not lying. If you want queso blanco at home, make this…you won’t regret it. We definitely loved this recipe and it couldn’t be easier to make!

Restaurant Style Queso Blanco
Source: mildly adapted from Confessions of a Foodie Bride

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil (veggie, olive, canola – whatever you have)
  • 1/4 cup white onion, diced
  • 1 large jalapeno or serrano, seeds and stem removed; diced
  • 12 oz white American cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded (not pre-shredded…grate this yourself)
  • 1/4-2/3 cup cream, half-and-half, or whole milk

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a pot. Add the onion and pepper and cook until until softened and reduce heat to medium-low.
  2. Add the shredded cheese and 1/4 cup of the cream. Stir until well combined and mostly melted.
  3. Add in additional cream a little at a time until you reach desired consistency.

Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

A few weeks ago, Justin of Marx Foods asked for bloggers who would be interested in developing a recipe using Mangalitsa pork products. (The winner would move onto another challenge issued by Marx Foods!) I’ve never heard of this before, but I was intrigued, so of course, I sent an email. Before I knew it, I had a slab of Mangalitsa bacon in front of me, begging to be made into something.

I asked my Twitter friends what they would prefer: sweet or savory. It was close, but savory had the most requests. :)

So, I brainstormed. I didn’t want to do a breakfast item, since that’s what bacon is known to be used in. I wanted to do something a tad different, and I remember having a spinach salad with bacon vinaigrette at a restaurant a while back. It was absolutely delicious, so I thought this would be a good thing to try to replicate in the kitchen.

I’m not the best cook in the world when I wing it, but for some reason, this dressing came out really awesome on the first try! The bacon lends a very mild flavor, but is still prominent in the dressing. I really enjoyed it!

Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
an original

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice thick cut bacon (I used mangalitsa bacon), cut into small cubes
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook the bacon on medium heat until done. Set the bacon to the side and pour off all but appx. 1 tbsp. bacon fat.
  2. Cook the shallot and garlic in the same pan (with the 1 tbsp. bacon fat) for about 5 minutes on medium low heat until it’s cooked down.
  3. Turn heat to low. Add in red wine vinegar, honey, dijon mustard and whisk well.
  4. Whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time until well blended.
  5. Serve over a salad of greens or spinach and enjoy!

I dip, You dip, We dip

 Steak Butter/Chimichurri

Sorry, couldn’t help it. Short 90′s flashback. Anyone else remember that song? I know the meaning of the song has nothing to do with food, but it mentions dip three times, and well, I had 3 different types of dip/sauces for our kabobs at the party. So, eh…ok, I guess I lose on the cool points. ::stares at RSS to see subscriber numbers plummet::

If you’re still with me, wow. You must really like me…or, hmm, maybe it’s the food that you guys like. :)

When it came time to plan for this party, I already had a few sauces/dips in mind. Chimichurri, which I’ve never had. Compound butter, because, well, butter makes everything better, and also the worcestershire-chive combination just sounded amazing. And then lastly, onion blue cheese sauce, because cheese and onions? Win! (Onion-blue cheese sauce is not pictured, because ravenous eyes were staring me down since the camera was the last thing holding my family back from chow-down time.)

The chimichurri was a huge winner. Everyone loved the flavor that it added to the meats, and it was probably the healthiest sauce/dip offered for the kabobs as well.

Chimichurri Sauce
Source: Bon Appetit
Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Puree all ingredients in processor. Transfer to bowl.

Worcestershire-Chive Compound Butter
Source: Bobby Flay

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill or side burner. Heat oil in a medium skillet add shallots and garlic and cook until soft, let cool slightly.
  2. Place butter in a small bowl and add shallot mixture, Worcestershire, mustard and chives and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Scrape mixture into the center of a piece of waxed paper and roll into a log. Refrigerate until firm.

Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce
Source: Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Very Large Yellow Onion, Sliced
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • ½ cups Crumbled Blue Cheese

Directions:

  1. Saute onions in 4 tablespoons butter over high heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until dark and caramelized.
  2. Reduce heat to simmer and pour in cream. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Stir in blue cheese until melted.

Cheese Fondue

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I love cheese. There, I said it. When recipes say “sprinkle” cheese, I COVER it in cheese. Cheese is just awesome. One of my favorite foods that involve cheese is fondue!  Whenever I go out for fondue, which is rare, I go crazy on the cheese fondue. It’s so fluffy, stringy and warm..oh, nom nom nom! Sadly, hubs hates fondue. He can’t stand it. So, I do not own a fondue set. It would be really useless to own a set knowing that I’m only going to eat off of it.

For the party, I wanted to bring in a dangerously cheesy dish, and what is more cheesy than fondue? I searched the Internet like crazy, and found a recipe that sounded simple and had great reviews. I wanted something that tasted like it came straight from a restaurant, so I wanted it to be authentic and have a swiss cheese base.

I also knew fondue involved wine, and I will admit, I am the furthest away from being knowledgeable about wine. I need things spelled out for me in a recipe. “Dry White Wine” as an ingredient  in a recipe didn’t help me, so I asked a few friends for help. It was a toss-up between using a sauvignon blanc and an unoaked chardonnay. My cheap self couldn’t find an unoaked chardonnay for less than $10 (at least the label didn’t say unoaked), so I settled for some Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc ($6 a bottle and it had seemingly good reviews for a frugal wine on the Internet). In the end, I couldn’t even taste the wine. I just don’t have a sensitive palate, I guess..all I tasted was cheese, cheese, cheese! :) This dish was a HIT!

Just to note, I ended up making this in a non-stick pot on low heat until it came together, then I threw it in a small crock-pot on low, since we don’t own a fondue set. It worked well at keeping the cheese warm. :)

Cheese Fondue
Source: adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
  • 1/2 pound shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 pound shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • french bread, cut into cubes
  • broccoli florets
  • baby carrots
  • apple slices

Directions:

  1. Simmer wine in a small pot. Add Swiss cheese, Gruyere cheese, 1/4 pound at a time. Stir after each addition of cheese until melted.  Note: It might not look like it’s coming together at this point. Just keep stirring and add the flour. That’s when my fondue came together.
  2. Stir in flour. When all the cheese has melted, stir in salt. Place in a small crockpot on low heat to serve. Serve with bread cubes, broccoli, carrots and apples.

Foodbuzz 24×24: The Best Things We Ever Ate

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Summer officially started last Monday. However, being in Louisiana, we’ve been feeling summer-like weather since May. With the heat index hitting 110 degrees sometimes, we wanted to throw a summer party that was most definitely indoors!

I watch entirely too much Food Network. If it wasn’t for Food Network and reading food blogs, I’m fairly certain my husband and I would be living off of Hamburger Helper and take-out. One of my favorite shows lately has been The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Every show has a theme, and it features the cooks/hosts on Food Network and their favorite eats in that theme. So, when Foodbuzz emailed about this month’s 24×24 proposals, I figured it would be a fun party to feature the best things our families have eaten! Thanks so much to Foodbuzz for sponsoring this party! :)

To come up with the menu, I sent out an email to our families asking for their favorites in each category.

  • On the Grill (recipes that are done on the BBQ)
  • Dangerously Cheesy (major cheese in a dish)
  • No Utensils (finger foods/apps)
  • Keep it Comfy (comfort food)
  • Frozen Treats (any dessert from the freezer)
  • Mix it Up (a food that requires using a mixer—doesn’t have to be a sweet)
  • Louisiana’s Best (Louisiana food)
  • Cold and Colorful (like a salad or cold app with lots of veggies or fruit)
  • Under the Sea (favorite seafood dish)
  • Classic American (with 4th of July approaching, tell me a dish that screams American)

After getting many responses, here is the menu we came up with:

Drinks:
Strawberry Lemonade
Strawberry Daiquiris

Appetizers:
Cheese Fondue with Vegetables/Bread*
Bruschetta*
Boudin Balls

Entrees:
Steak Skewers with Chimichurri, Onion Cheese Sauce and Compound Butter*
Spicy BBQ Shrimp Skewers*

Sides:
Crawfish Fettuccine
Macaroni and Cheese
Vegetable Skewers*
Grilled Corn
Lettuce Greens with Honey Lime Vinaigrette

Desserts:
Strawberry Cake*
Assorted Cupcakes
Cinnamon Crumb Apple Pie
Fresh Berries with Ice Cream

* recipes will be featured in the blog in future posts

I will admit, I’m still getting the hang of entertaining for a large number of people. Despite doing a lot of prep, I felt fairly stressed in the last hour. Since the party was for family, though, I had loads of help at the last minute. :) Whew!

The fondue was an absolute hit. I was nervous to make this myself, but this recipe came together beautifully! I served the fondue with day old po’boy bread, carrots and broccoli.

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We purchased the boudin balls at a local joint, since they are pretty much my husband’s favorite. The bruschetta was a lighter alternative to the other appetizers. I was super excited to use basil from our garden for this dish!

Appetizers

I need to thank the hubs for braving the sweltering disgusting heat to cook up this magic on the grill. The steak, especially was a real winner to family!

kabobs

We made 3 sauces available for people to dip/cover their skewers in: a chimichurri, onion blue cheese (not pictured) and a worchestershire chive butter. The chimichurri ended up being a huge hit (and I used parsley from the garden for it)!

Steak Butter/Chimichurri

Here is some lovely grilled corn that survived a few flare-ups on the grill. :)

Grilled Corn

Here is a semi-decent picture of the crawfish fettuccine before everyone digged in. The hubs’ parents made this dish and it was delicious. Perfect flavor with a little Louisiana kick!

Crawfish Fettucine

This is some macaroni and cheese that is my mother-in-law’s favorite. It was definitely pretty tasty (not to mention, cheesy). :)

Mac and Cheese

After enjoying some serious eats, we waited a good while before putting out desserts and just chatted, watched TV and played some games.

I will say the desserts were absolutely amazing.

Fresh berries (and ice cream, not pictured)

berries

Strawberry Cake (inspired by a local bakery). I would have just purchased one, but I had no idea an 8″ cake was over $30. What the heck?! I guess I’m just used to baking my own cakes to realize how expensive cakes have gotten!

Strawberry Cake

This was a welcomed surprise. A local cupcake bakery occasionally has giveaways on Twitter, and I won some cupcakes! They were seriously delish! Thank you Sweet Wishes Cafe!

Cupcakes

Here is the cinnamon crumb apple pie. This is one of those frozen pies you can find in the grocery store, but has quickly become a favorite with my hubs’ family.

apple pie

Of course, our puppy was very excited to get all of the attention she got at the party, and thanks to my mom, she tried a piece of steak for the first time. I think she enjoyed it. :)

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And of course, it wouldn’t be a party without family! Here are some pictures of our family.

Mom and Sis

family

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It was a great time to be had by everyone, especially in the milder indoors. Thank you so much to Foodbuzz again for the party! Everyone had a blast! :)

Roasted Tomato Salsa

My husband and I planned on doing a Superbowl Mexican feast (for 2), so I was searching for salsa recipes. I happened to come across this recipe on Delish Blog, and was intrigued. Roasted vegetables are always awesome, so roasted salsa had to be all sorts of amazing.

Roasting all of the vegetables made the house smell so yummy, and I just couldn’t wait to dig into this! It had amazing flavor, but my husband and I agreed that our tomatoes probably weren’t ripe enough. We were craving a more rich tomato flavor in the salsa. I can’t wait to try this again in the summer with fresh local tomatoes!

Roasted Tomato Salsa
Source: Delish Blog

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 4-6 cloves roasted garlic
  • 2-3 large jalapenos, deseeded & deveined, cut in half lengthwise
  • freshly ground black pepper & kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400°F . Gently toss the tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapenos with the olive oil in a large bowl. Alternatively, use spray oil to gently coat the veggies (You just don’t want it to burn). Season with a little freshly ground black pepper. After they are nicely coated arrange in a single layer, tomatoes cut-side facing up, across a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, roast in the oven for 40-50 minutes, (depending upon the size of your tomatoes). You’ll know they’re ready to come out when they start to get a nice color and the tomatoes start to collapse. Remove from the oven and cool.
  2. Puree cooled tomatoes, onion, garlic, and jalapenos. Alternatively, puree half of the veggies and hand chop the remainder and combine. Season with salt and stir in the cilantro. Refrigerate.

Chicken Gyros

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This has been a very popular recipe on the What’s Cooking board that I frequent. I love greek food, and heck, my husband loves anything involving garlic, so I thought this would be a definite winner!

This recipe comes from Elly Says Opa!, whose blog I love to read for healthy inspiration and greek recipes!

This was some very flavorful chicken, and in combination with the tzatziki sauce on the homemade pita bread that I made, it was a really great dinner!

Chicken Gyros
Source: Elly Says Opa!

Ingredients:

1.25 lbs. chicken (I used boneless, skinless breasts)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar (all I had was white wine vinegar..worked fine!)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 batch of tzatziki (recipe to follow)
sliced tomatoes
sliced onions
4 (pocketless) pitas (I used homemade)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano in a bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.chicken1
  2. Preheat the broiler (or grill, or pan on the stove).  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and then broil until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, depending  what size/type chicken you are using. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.
  3. Meanwhile, heat your pitas, a few seconds on each side on a skillet. Then, top the pita with the chicken, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions. Roll up and eat!

The Skinny – per serving (just the chicken), Serves 4

Calories – 197.0
Fat – 8.3 g
Fiber – 0.2 g

Tzatziki Sauce
Source: Elly Says Opa!

This makes 1/4 of the batch that Elly has in her recipe. I knew I’d be eating it alone, since my husband isn’t a fan of greek yogurt.

Ingredients:

  • 1 8 oz. container of plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic (LOVE garlic!)
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • salt and a little pepper
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Strain yogurt using a cheesecloth over a bowl (if you don’t have that, a strainer lined with a coffee filter will work) for several hours or overnight to get out as much moisture as possible. (Since I had greek yogurt, I didn’t need to do this)
  2. Peel and seed the cucumber.  Shred the cucumbers and then squeeze the life out of them to get rid of as much excess moisture as possible. I use a towel to do this, and you will get a lot of liquid so don’t skip this step! Yes, there is a lot of straining and squeezing–and it’s all important! You don’t want a runny tzatziki!
  3. Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumbers, garlic, vinegar and lemon juice (if desired). Salt to taste. It’s best to refrigerate for 30 minutes or more before serving, so flavors can meld.
  4. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

For this sauce, I used Stonyfield Farms Oikos Greek yogurt. I won a giveaway from Jenny’s Cooking that included coupons for this yogurt. This was a very thick yogurt, and while I’m not a fan of plain yogurt, I will say that this provided a great base for the sauce. Thanks to the people at Stonyfield Farms and Jenny’s Cooking for the coupons!

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The Skinny – per 1 oz. serving, serves 8

Calories – 49.1
Fat – 3.4 g
Fiber – 0.1 g

Spicy Meatballs & Spaghetti

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Here’s another recipe from Ellie Krieger, out of the book, The Food You Crave. This was REALLY good. We ended up saving the leftover meatballs and sauce to make whole wheat meatball poboys another night. In fact, I found the sauce to be way better as leftovers, since the flavors developed more!

Spicy Meatballs and Spaghetti
Source: Ellie Krieger

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, liquid included
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced canned chipotle chiles en adobo and sauce, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

For the meatballs:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound ground turkey meat
  • 1 slice fresh whole-wheat bread, crusts removed, pulsed into crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup finely grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 box (16 ounces) whole-wheat spaghetti

Directions

  • Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil for pasta.

For the sauce:

  • In a 4-quart saucepan heat the oil over medium heat.
  • Saute the onions until translucent, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  • Add tomato paste, tomatoes, chipotles, oregano, rosemary, and salt. Bring all the ingredients to a low boil, reduce heat and cook for approximately 15 minutes, until liquid has evaporated slightly.
    Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • While sauce is cooking, make meatballs.

Meatball Directions:

  • Preheat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine the turkey with all other ingredients in a large work bowl.
  • Form into 2 1/2 -inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Broil for 10 minutes, or until browned and almost entirely cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, remove rosemary sprig from sauce and add fresh basil. Add the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and cook additional 10 minutes, or until sauce has slightly thickened and meatballs have
    absorbed some of the sauce.
  • While the meatballs are cooking, cook the
    whole-wheat spaghetti according to package directions.
  • Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and meatballs, toss and heat through over medium heat. Divide evenly among 4 pasta bowls and garnish with parsley and 1 tablespoon grated
    Parmesan.

Yield: 6 servings (1 serving equals about 1 1/3 cups pasta and sauce, plus 2 meatballs

POINTS*: 7

Mexican Night: The Salsa

OMG…this stuff was the BEST part of tonight…I love salsa :). Once again, I chose a highly rated recipe from All Recipes and this wasn’t a disappointment at all and SUPER easy!

Ingredients
* 2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
* 1/2 onion, finely diced
* 1 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/2 lime, juiced
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup canned sliced green chiles, or to taste
* 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
* 1/2 tsp chili powder (an addition that I added for more flavor)

Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lime juice, salt, green chiles, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Blend on low to desired consistency.


Mmm…hand over a bag of tostitos!