Chili con Queso

Image of a bowl of Chili con Queso with tortilla chipsSay Cheese
My sister is a foodie just like me. Weekends are planned around baking schedules. Excuses to have a get-together are whipped up so that a certain cookbook can be taken for a test drive. Entire international vacation itineraries revolve around restaurants and the foods of far-off lands. We love good food. It is because of this love of all things culinary that she gets a rather large dose of ridicule for her love of queso.

You can call it queso, cheese sauce, or even cheese dip. But, no matter what you call it if there is a tray of semi-fresh tortilla chips with bright orange cheese sauce you bet my sister is all over them. The more bright orange and weird the queso, the better. So, it should come as no surprise that at a recent get-together there was a small, gently bubbling crockpot of queso.

The good news is that this wasn’t the queso that you pump onto chips at the ballpark. This was a different animal. This was queso that she made. And, fresh queso is a totally different experience. Yes, you might have to get past the fact that it is indeed still made with Velveeta—a product my mother only bought to put in our emergency earthquake kit. But, the results are worth it.

Real queso does not have that plasticky sheen and/or texture. Real queso is actually quite good and I will bet anyone that the loudest naysayers will be the same people who park themselves by the bowl and can’t stop eating it. (Guilty)

This is the recipe she made and it comes adapted from my favorite cookbook and restaurant Tacolicious. It’s one of their most popular items on the menu. Give it a try for Cinco de Mayo and see what you think…

Chili con Queso
Yields 12 servings
Recipe adapted from Tacolicious by Sara Deseran Read more…

Roasted Tomato Ketchup

Roasted Tomato KetchupWe Should Ketchup
So, it’s now the second full week of September. And, although the weather is still hot, I have decided it’s time to pull my tomato plants. The heat is starting to take its toll. And, frankly, it’s just time. There are actually quite a few tomatoes still on the vine, so I’m going to have to do something with all that fruit. Sure, the easy answer is to make a big batch of pasta sauce, and I am planning to make at least a small batch to put in the freezer. But, now that football season has started up, my mind is in tailgating mode. In my mind, tailgating and extra tomatoes mean one thing. Ketchup.

While there is nothing wrong with the tried and true Heinz that we all grew up on, homemade ketchup can take your sausage or burger to a whole new level. Making your own ketchup isn’t complicated and it can be fun to mess around with different flavors. I add cayenne to my ketchup because I like a little kick. But, you can leave it out if you aren’t a fan of spicy. A hefty shot of Tabasco works well, too. Curry can be a great addition as can fish sauce for a little southeast Asian flair. You can experiment with the different kinds of vinegar you choose as well. Apple Cider vinegar is classic, but you can do basic distilled white or even try some balsamic for a sweeter result.

The recipe below is adapted from grill king Bobby Flay and is a good basic starting recipe. Strangely, his original version does not have any spice to it—which is his signature. I added it in. I would recommend trying the basic version first so you know what the flavors are before you go messing with it. Read more…

George’s Garden Salsa

George’s Garden SalsaMy husband could live on chips and salsa. It is by far his most favorite thing in the world behind ice cream and tacos which is why whenever we discuss planting a veggie garden, I always have to include the components for salsa. I have been making fresh salsa from our garden for forever. But, it wasn’t until the kids went back to school this year that my husband figured out how to do it himself.

My other half is one of the many who have been working from home for the past eighteen months—this wasn’t too awful. Since the kids were doing distance learning, he occasionally had people to talk to when they chose to come out of their caves. And, he had the option to send them to the store in the case of a salsa emergency.

Now that school is back in person and the kids are gone, the only one he has left is the dog. And, she can’t reach the gas pedal. So, out of desperation and in an attempt to use the tomatoes and chilies that we have coming out of our ears, he made his own salsa. And, it’s actually really good. (I say actually because his experiments can be well, concerning.) His salsa is even better if it sits for a day in the fridge and the flavors are allowed to meld. Beware though, this salsa is hot. By his standards, if you ain’t sweatin’ it ain’t worth it!

There is no actual recipe for George’s Garden Salsa which means it’s a little different each time. Everything is done by eye and taste testing. But, I have tried to lay it out the best I can below. Feel free to mess with it as you see fit. Roast the chilies on the grill, dial back on the heat, or add some avocado…it’s your canvas to do with as you please.

For those who like their salsa a little less chunky, throw half of the salsa (or all of it) in the food processor.

George’s Garden Salsa Recipe
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Blueberry Salsa à la Amy

Blueberry Salsa à la AmySalsa Berry
I admit I am not a big blueberry fan. I don’t dislike blueberries, but they are not my go-to for a berry snack. I have raspberries for that. That being said, we’re getting into blueberry season when they are really good.

When I eat blueberries, most of the time they are in something and cooked like a muffin or pie. And, almost always it is something sweet. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of sweet blueberry treats. But, I have been on the hunt for a recipe that is as savory as you can be with a sweet berry—but also doesn’t mess too much with the berry itself. I found salsa…

You can never go wrong with fresh tortilla chips and salsa, no matter what the salsa is made out of. Though some might disagree, a blueberry salsa really isn’t that crazy to me. After all I make salsa out of mangoes all the time. So, I know the sweet will work with the spicy.

There are plenty of versions of blueberry salsa out there if you are looking. A lot of them cook the tomatoes. I don’t. I prefer to dice everything up and keep the fresh flavor. But, it all depends on what flavors you like when eating salsa. It also depends on your tomatoes. If you have fresh tomatoes from your garden, just dice ‘em up. Those babies are gold…

Type of chili pepper is another point of personal preference. I like hot salsa but not super hot salsa. If it’s so hot that I can’t taste anything but the heat, what’s the point? I tend to go with jalapeños, or Fresnos if I want a tad more heat. I also add a little bell pepper because that’s what I do in my mango salsa and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Give this recipe a try next time you have some really great blueberries and want a snack, And, if you find this rolls into being your dinner, I won’t tell…

Blueberry Salsa à la Amy
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…