#52NewEats :: Week 35 :: Chuy’s Creamy Jalapeno Dip

Chuy's Creamy Jalapeno Dip

I don’t really know what Chuy’s is, I am assuming it’s a restaurant of some kind, all I know is that when I saw //this dip// on Pinterest it looked creamy and delicious, and those are my two favorite criteria for anything going into my mouth.

I was excited to make it for a Mexican-themed party I was hosting, but after trying it I realized it could serve as so much more than a dip.  You could drizzle this onto tacos, onto nachos (duh), on top of enchiladas… you could definitely dip veggies in it, but tortilla chips will always win in my camp.  I bet French fries and onion rings would be great dipped in this too!

This is a very versatile dip that is so easy to make.  Don’t be scared of the amount of chopped jalapenos it calls for – as long as you chop them very small, you’ll be fine.  And there’s enough creaminess to balance out whatever heat they bring to the bowl.  Also, I had read through the comments on the website and found that a lot of Chuy’s experts felt that it was a close match to Chuy’s actual dip, but that it was missing garlic.  So I made sure I added one clove of grated garlic to the dip, just guesstimating, and it turned out really well.

This is a great dip to have out at your next party, or even just to whip up the next time you feel like settling down for a day of Netflix and snacks!!

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Herb and Garlic Cheese Spread

Herb and Garlic Cheese Spread

Herb and garlic cheese spread is another old recipe I found in my binder from my early days of learning how to cook.  I remember Aaron loved it back then, so when I saw this I thought it would make a good snack for him to bring in for lunch!

It’s funny because the day I made this, he came home from the gym starving and wanting something to eat, and I was just getting ready to photograph this.  I turned my back to grab some props to stage and turned around and there he was, digging into my perfectly coiffed globe of herb and garlic cheese spread.  I had to smack his hands away and re-do the coif.  I don’t even know if it’s called a coif.  Not even sure where I got that from.  But I had to re-swirl it again and make it pretty.  Food bloggers will know what I mean.

I snapped this little behind-the-scenes of shooting this recipe.  The mid-day lighting is so amazing in this window.  If I wait too long into the afternoon, the setting sun will shine right into this window and cast shadows.  So I try to get my cooking done earlier in the day on weekends if I’m photographing a recipe!  This is a huuuge bay window that looks out onto about half of my three acres.  It’s part of what sold us on this house.  And for Christmas last year, my mom got a custom-made window seat cushion for this window.  It’s so awesome.  My daughter sometimes sits up there and reads.

Behind The Scenes

Anyway.  This herb and garlic cheese spread is a great dip to have out at your next party!  It’s highly addictive, hubby couldn’t stop eating it until I reminded him it’s mostly for his lunch… then he finally put the crackers away.

Herb and Garlic Cheese Spread

8oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

Add all ingredients to a bowl and use beaters to beat together and combine well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to one week.

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#52NewEats :: Week 34 :: Beef Enchilada Dip

Beef Enchilada Dip

So there’s no ifs ands or buts about it – the thing that drew me in to try this recipe was the pictures on the website.  Go check them out //here//.  That cheese is so deliciously melty and the dish is so beefy and I just love Mexican food so I had to make this dish.

I had some extra jalapenos laying around so I minced one and added it with the onion.  I did not use Old El Paso brand enchilada sauce though; I find it too salty for my tastes.  I used the Frontera brand that’s in the pouch, because that’s my favorite.  They are 8oz pouches, and I only used 2 pouches, and found that to be plenty of sauce.  I simmered for a good long time so it reduced and thickened, and as I was stirring and salivating I was struck with an idea for a new recipe 😊 so recipe testing for that shall start soon!

That is probably my favorite thing about this #52NewEats project – it has really sparked my creativity with food!

I made this for dinner one night and we sure cleaned it up.  Yes, between myself and my husband I think there was only about a bowlful left for him to take to work for lunch the next day.  I did take the blogger’s advice and put a big fat dollop of sour cream in the middle (bc sour cream for life) and dotted it with some thinly sliced fresh jalapenos.  I forgot to buy cilantro, but if I’d had some, that would have made a great topping.

This is definitely a great dish to have on hand for game day – and that season is fast approaching!!

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#52NewEats :: Week 33 :: Copycat Chili’s Salsa

Copycat Chili's Salsa

One of my daughter’s favorite restaurants to eat at is Chili’s.  Personally, I also love Chili’s!  Chili’s holds a special place in my heart.  When my husband and I first started dating (way the hell back in the last century, in 1998), it was the “nice” restaurant that we would go to when going out to eat.  I used to love ordering their cheeseburgers – one time they had an amazing cheeseburger that had chipotle sauce and blue cheese dressing on it (I made a knockoff //here//), but their regular cheeseburger was also always good!  We also love the boneless buffalo wings, and chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes… so many great memories at Chili’s!

Now that my daughter has joined us, HER favorite meal quickly became probably the cheapest thing on the menu – the bottomless chips and salsa.  This girl LOVES chips and salsa.  We no longer order anything for her off the kids menu, because this is her meal!

So when I finally found a recipe for copycat chili’s salsa, I knew I had to make it.  She, of course, was reluctant to try it, because she’s a picky 7yo, but after much prodding she finally did and guess what?  Couldn’t stop eating it.

You can find the original recipe //here//, and I can assure you, it is the real deal!  It tastes JUST LIKE Chili’s salsa.  We definitely love this recipe!!

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Project Potluck – “Women and Magic”

Project Potluck

//Project Potluck// was a beautiful idea born in my food blogging group on Facebook in response to the horrific events that unfolded in Charlottesville, VA, the weekend of August 11-13.  The idea was to bring people together out of love and not hate; to gather together and share some food, share a meal; to invite a diverse group into your home to share your bounty and your love for one another, for the human race.

I heard this and knew immediately I had to turn my already-planned Reiki party into a gathering Project Potluck would be proud of!  It was an amazing day filled with laughter, tears, love, and hugs.  We ate lots of delicious food, including guacamole, homemade salsa, something I’m calling my “5.5 Layer Dip” (stay tuned for the post), and buffalo chicken dip bread.  My BFF the Reiki Master performed Reiki and oracle readings on all of us, burned delicious-smelling incense, and offered homemade candles, bath bombs, sugar scrubs, and wire-wrapped crystals for sale.  Then my husband came home from work and said, “It smells like women and magic in here!”  And he doesn’t even know how right he was.

I am extremely proud to hold dear to me a very diverse group of friends.  I am proud to raise my daughter amongst these women.  They are inspiring for so many reasons other than the labels society would place on them.  Indeed, these labels can be constraints of their own – something that holds them back from becoming everything they could possibly be.  They, like any other human on this Earth, are not merely skin deep.  But these women that I hold close and dear have broken these chains, ripped off those labels, shattered many glass ceilings (let’s be honest – there is not only one), and have ensured that their path in life is serving their best interests.  They are go-getters, they are motivators, they are hustlers, they are chance-takers, they are believers of fate and faith and love and light, they are good energy, they are feel-good women, they are the kind of people you want in your village, helping you raise your children.  They are full of wisdom, and insight, and laughter, and positivity, and they love fiercely.  They don’t take anyone’s shit, and they are quick to defend at the first inclination of unfairness.

And they are Hispanic.  They are black.  They are white.  They are mixed races.  They are gay.  They are single.  They are married.  They are mothers.  They rescue animals.  They own their own businesses.  They are leaders.  They are my tribe.

You don’t have to be a white man with blond hair and blue eyes to be successful in this country.  To be a positive, contributing member of society.

The hands of the women you see in that photo above have accomplished so much in their lives just by being who they are on the inside.  They have never let a label define them or hold them down.  They are kind, accepting, open-minded women who are making this world a better place.  It is not what you see on the surface that matters; it is what is beyond their skin that makes them who they are.

I am proud to be among them.
I am proud to call them my sisters.
I am proud to raise my daughter among them.

Hate and racism have no home here.  We are not born with hate in our hearts, and I will not let it grow in my daughter’s heart.  I will change the world by loving my daughter and raising her to love as my tribe does.

With open arms, and an open heart, and an open mind.

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Cholula Mac & Cheese

Cholula Mac and Cheese

Once I perfected my homemade //macaroni and cheese//, I started noticing that my husband was desecrating his plate of perfectly creamy mac and cheese with hot sauce.  😱  The nerve!

Originally it was Tabasco.  I couldn’t believe such things.  Who dare muddle my perfectly perfected cheese sauce with Tabasco?  No!  No no no.

But then he became a Cholula guy.  And I became a Cholula girl.  And then my mom made a buffalo style mac and cheese and I thought hey.  Maybe spicy mac and cheese ain’t all that bad.

So a little while ago I made a batch of mac and cheese and split it in half.  One, I flavored with Chipotle Tabasco (one of my favoritest condiments ever), and the other, I flavored with Cholula.  I brought both to a family gathering at my mom’s house and twisted everyone’s arms to taste both and tell me which one they liked better.  I did not tell them what was flavored with what.

The clear winner was the Cholula flavored mac and cheese, but even so, the Chipotle Tabasco one was also very good!  It was really hard to choose.

There are no major changes with this mac and cheese from my //original recipe//.  The only things I did differently were a) I used rotini instead of elbow macaroni, but you can use whatever you want! and b) I added 4 tablespoons Cholula to the cheese sauce.  Everything else is exactly the same!

You can certainly experiment with adding more or less Cholula to your taste, especially if you are hesitant with spicy foods.  The 4 tablespoons was a good amount to get a bit of a kick, but not too much; but we are not too sensitive to spicy foods.  Use your judgment and taste as you go.  Enjoy!

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Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni

Cheeseburger Macaroni

First and foremost, can I just lament how hard it is to photograph this dish?

I mean, I don’t really know how you make homemade cheeseburger macaroni pretty.  I suppose I could have thrown something green on top of it, like parsley?  But then it wouldn’t really be a knockoff of Hamburger Helper.

Let’s face it.  Cheeseburger macaroni is not a pretty dish.  But, it is a delicious dish.

How many of you grew up eating Hamburger Helper as a kid?  Well, not me.  I didn’t discover it’s wondrousness until I was about 19 or so and moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) into our first apartment together in West Philly.  Back then, our grocery budget was about $50 a week to feed the two of us.  In 1999, $50 got you a lot farther than it does now.  We could buy a couple cases of soda, 5 lbs of ground beef and/or chicken breasts, and 5 different Hamburger/Chicken Helpers, and still have some money left over.  The only trick was walking it about a mile home in backpacks, through a sketchy neighborhood, in all the weather elements.

My, how far we’ve come!

This homemade cheeseburger macaroni is classed up a bit with my fancy schmancy cheese sauce that I use when making homemade macaroni.  Oh, and also?  Liquid Smoke.  Cuz that shit makes everything taste amazing.  Sometimes I just pop open the top and take a couple whiffs.  It’s so good.

This dish stays pretty creamy as leftovers too, especially if you heat it gently in the microwave with a splash of milk to moisten it back up.  Therefore, it made a great work lunch for me earlier this week.  😉

Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni
Adapted from: FoodieCrush
Servess 4-6

For the beef mixture:
1 pound ground beef (I recommend 85% ground beef)
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
3 cups beef stock
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons garlic powder
5-6 shakes of Liquid Smoke
2 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooking spray

For the cheese sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk, warmed for 1 minute in the microwave
4oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1oz Velveeta, cubed

1. Spray a deep skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the diced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the ground beef and brown, breaking up into chunks. When the beef has finished browning, drain it, and return it to the skillet.

2. Add the beef stock, ketchup, tomato paste, garlic powder, and Liquid Smoke, and stir to combine. Once combined, add in the macaroni, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the macaroni is cooked al dente.

3. While the beef mixture is simmering, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Cook, allowing the mixture to bubble, for about 3 minutes. Add milk and whisk vigorously to combine, until the sauce thickens (this should not take long since you already warmed the milk in the microwave). As soon as the sauce starts to resist a little, when you can whisk and see the bottom of the pan, begin adding your cheeses. Start with cream cheese and Velveeta, whisk until melted. Then add shredded cheese, and whisk until the cheese sauce is well-combined.

4. When the beef mixture is finished, pour the cheese sauce over top and gently stir together to combine. Season with salt and pepper if necessary, and enjoy!

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Fresh Tomato and Garlic Penne

Fresh Tomato and Garlic Penne

Today, I bring you one of my favorite old-time recipes from when I first started learning how to cook: fresh tomato and garlic penne.

When I first started learning how to cook, I was also sort of discovering that I liked pasta.  Weird, I know, right?  Like, who am I?  I don’t even know sometimes.  But yeah, I first fell in love with alfredo sauce and after making that a gajillion times, my boyfriend (now husband) urged me to make some pasta with red sauce.  He is partial to red sauces while I could eat any kind of creamy, cheesy, saucy pasta by the bucketful and never really get full.  So we tried some of those jarred sauces, and they aren’t terrible, but whenever / however I stumbled across this recipe, I knew immediately he would like it.

So we made it over the weekend for the first time in, oh, like, 15 years?  😂  I swear, I’m not reaching that far back for recipes because I’m running out of content or ideas.  In fact, I’m reaching that far back because I’m trying to expand my repertoire of vegetarian recipes, and found this old gem as a result of minimalizing one of my recipe binders last month.  It was one of those, “OH!  THIS recipe!  Why did we ever stop making this?!” moments.

And when I took my first bite, I was instantly transported back to my little apartment in Spokane, Washington, where I have a vision of myself wearing khaki overalls (lol whut), sitting at our dining room table that was practically in the family room, watching Jeopardy, sprinkling Parmesan cheese over top of hot penne pasta graced with the sweetest Roma tomatoes, that fresh basil wafting up into my nostrils, and, finally, shoveling forkfuls of this pasta into my mouth.  It wasn’t a bad recipe then, and it’s not a bad recipe now.  And it’s a GREAT recipe to make right now, at the height of fresh tomato season.

I hope you enjoy it!

Fresh Tomato and Garlic Penne

2 1/2 cups uncooked penne rigate pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, for topping (optional)

1. Cook pasta as directed on package and drain.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic in oil for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Cook 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until tomatoes start to break down and sauce thickens slightly. Reduce heat to low, and stir in basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

3. Toss tomato sauce with cooked pasta. Sprinkle with additional fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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#52NewEats :: Week 32 :: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Guysssssss.  Who knew vegan desserts could be SO delicious?

This is another recipe from my friend Daniela over at //dulce y natural// blog.  The //original recipe// was for chocolate chip cookies, but for whatever reason, the dough did not really come together enough for me to be able to roll into a ball, so I improvised and pressed it into a pan to make chocolate chip cookie bars instead.  I suspect my issue may have been that my house was so warm to start, that my coconut oil was already in the liquid state.  In her blog Daniela instructs you to work quickly with your hands in the dough, as the heat from your hands will keep the coconut oil soft.  Maybe when she made them, the coconut oil started to firm up just enough to tighten up the dough.  But not for me on a 90-degree day here in the Pennsylvania countryside!

Regardless, these chocolate chip cookie bars were a major success.  I baked them for the same amount of time, maybe a minute or two longer, than the cookie recipe, and they made my house smell amazing!  I lined an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, and when the cookie bars were done baking and had cooled a bit, I lifted them out of the pan and cut them into bars with a chef’s knife.  The day I made them, I was meeting my mostly-vegan BFF for dinner and decided to bring a box for her and her wife to share.  The next day she texted me and said they couldn’t stop eating them and they wanted the recipe!

These chocolate chip cookie bars were made from ingredients I already had in my house, which was also awesome, because I didn’t have to go buy anything fancy to make them – and, also, because that means I can basically make them anytime I want!  I hope you head on over to Daniela’s blog and give these chocolate chip cookies (or cookie bars!) a try.  And while you’re there check out the rest of the recipes… I’ve got my eye on that carrot cake next!!

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