BBQ Jalapeno Poppers

It’s September, football has started and that means GAME DAY APPETIZERS! That’s my favorite part of football season anyway. There are lots of ways to make poppers, they can be a bit more refined, with goat cheese and balsamic, like Honey Balsamic Jalapeno Poppers or more traditional. This recipe screams Texas to me, with the combo of bacon, cream cheese and cheddar cheese and topped with BBQ sauce. Who’s hungry?

 

Ingredients:
12 jalapenos, sliced in half
8 oz. cream cheese
6 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
12 slices of bacon, cut in half
¼ cup BBQ sauce

Let cream cheese sit on the counter for about 30 minutes to soften. While preheating oven to 425 degrees, cut stems from jalapenos and slice in half lengthwise, removing ribs and seeds.  Mix together softened cream cheese and shredded cheddar. Spread an equal amount of cheese mixture in each halved pepper and wrap with a half slice of bacon. If the slices aren’t big enough to wrap around completely, they can be secured with a toothpick, but I usually do without. Place jalapenos on cookie sheet in 425 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until bacon is cooked. Make sure the pan has a raised lip so the oils from the bacon do not spill while cooking. Brush with BBQ sauce, then return to the oven for 5 minutes more. Enjoy!

Bacon Cheddar Cheese Ball

I love make-ahead appetizers. The more I can have done before the day of a party, the better. And if a make-ahead appetizer has cheese and bacon in it… that’s even better! You know, because there is cheese and bacon in it. And then rolled in more bacon and toasted pecans. This Bacon Cheddar Cheese Ball is the perfect make-ahead appetizer to make for Super Bowl or to bring over to a friend’s house. It can also be served at room temperature – so it’s easy, cheesy, and delicious!

 

Ingredients:
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 slices thick cut bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
¼ cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
6 oz. cheddar, finely shredded
2 tbsp. green onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp. garlic powder
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to season

Take cream cheese out of refrigerator and remove from foil wrappers to allow it to come to room temperature (it will be easier to fold in other ingredients). In a small bowl, combine toasted pecans and 2 slices crumbled bacon for outer coating. In a separate bowl, mix together cream cheese, cheddar cheese, 4 slices crumbled bacon, green onions, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper until fully incorporated. Using your hands, form into a ball and roll in bacon and pecan mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in refrigerator. When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving and arrange on platter with crackers. Enjoy!

Chicken and Spinach Tortellini Soup

chicken-and-spinach-tortellini-soupIt seems like the seasons change in a blink of an eye, and just like that it’s winter. Right now it’s all about the holidays, football, and cooler weather comfort food. A big pot of soup is one of my favorite cooler weather meals; there are endless ways change them up, and there is always enough to take for lunch the next day! The only rule in my house is that soup has to be hearty, and this Italian inspired soup is packed with tender chicken, fresh veggies and tortellini, which combines two of my favorites – pasta and cheese!

 

chicken-and-spinach-tortellini-soup-2Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb. cooked chicken
4 cups (32 oz. chicken broth)
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, including juices
9 oz. container cheese tortellini (can be found in the refrigerated section)
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
2 celery stalks
1 zucchini
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper

chicken-and-spinach-tortellini-soup-3Preheat stock pot on medium-low heat. Add olive oil and sauté onion, celery and garlic until translucent, about 5-7 min. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes and Italian seasonings, and bring to a simmer. Add diced zucchini and chicken and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium and add tortellini to pot. Cook according to package instructions (mine was 7-9 minutes). Stir in baby spinach and let cook one minute more. Garnish with chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Cheesy Cauliflower Gratin

cheesy-cauliflower-gratin-1Move over macaroni, there is a new cheesy side dish in town. This cheesy, decadent side is lighter on carbs, but I guarantee you won’t miss them. Cauliflower always makes its way onto my dining room table for the holidays, whether steamed, roasted or baked, and this would be a perfect side for Thanksgiving. This recipe makes a large batch, enough for a family gathering, but could easily be halved for a weeknight meal.

 

 

cheesy-cauliflower-gratin-2Ingredients (Serves 6-8):
2 heads cauliflower (approx. 2lb), cut into small bite sized florets
4 oz. Colby, Monterrey jack or a Colby-jack blend, cut into cubes
4 oz. cheddar, cut into cubes
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
⅛ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

For the crumb topping:
1 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. breadcrumbs

cheesy-cauliflower-gratin-3To make the crumb topping: Melt 1 tbsp. butter over medium low, then add breadcrumbs. Stir until just starting to turn golden brown. Turn off heat and set aside.

Cut cauliflower into bite sized pieces and place in a large baking dish. Make sure they are cut small enough to allow an even coating of cheese sauce.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium saucepan, melt remaining 2 tbsp. butter on low, add flour, stir for 2-3 minutes while bubbling but not brown. Add milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder and half of the cheese. Stir for 2-3 minutes until starting to melt, then add remaining cheese. Continue stirring until cheese is melted, being careful not to let the milk boil. Once melted, pour over cauliflower, coating evenly. Let sit 5 minutes (this will let the cheese sauce firm up slightly so the crumbs sit on top rather than sink into the cheese sauce). Add crumb topping and bake for 35-45 minutes until cheese is bubbling and cauliflower is cooked. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks

cheesy-garlic-breadsticksThere is something about freshly baked bread that makes every meal better. It makes a light salad more substantial, and every soup, stew and gravy needs a fresh piece of bread for sweeping off the plate. Add garlic + cheese and we’ve covered all my favorite groups. Who doesn’t love cheesy breadsticks?

 

 

cheesy-garlic-breadsticks-2

 

Ingredients (makes 8 breadsticks):
8 oz. pizza dough (see recipe)
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
2 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

cheesy-garlic-breadsticks-3Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll pizza dough into an approx. 8×8 inch square. Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl for 15 second increments until fully melted. Stir in garlic, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper. Brush melted butter mixture on dough and top with shredded cheese. Bake on a pizza stone or cookie sheet for 12 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Brush with any remaining butter, sprinkle with sea salt and cut into 8 breadsticks. Enjoy!

Cheesy Chicken and Corn Enchiladas

cheesy-chicken-and-corn-enchiladasThere are endless ways you can make (or order!) your enchiladas, from beef to bean to veggie, but the chicken enchilada is king! Chicken and corn, rolled up and topped with ooey-gooey cheese and a savory Red Enchilada Sauce is the ultimate comfort food.

This recipe is perfect to make with a store bought rotisserie chicken, which saves time and money. They are large enough to split among two recipes, one that calls for pulled or shredded chicken (like this one), and another that calls for soup or broth.  Making broth with a rotisserie chicken that has already been roasted adds tons of depth and flavor that you won’t get starting with raw chicken.   (See quick and easy broth recipe below.)  Use some of the chicken with these enchiladas, and make a BBQ Chicken Cast Iron Skillet Pizza or Chicken Tortilla Soup tomorrow.

Ingredients (makes 8 enchiladas, serves 4):
8 corn tortillas (approx. 6 inch diameter)
1 tsp. canola oil
½ thinly sliced onion
12 oz. cooked chicken, shredded
½ cup frozen corn, thawed
1 ½ cup Red Enchilada Sauce (see recipe), divided
6 oz. shredded cheddar or Monterrey jack cheese
Green onion, to garnish

cheesy-chicken-and-corn-enchiladas-2Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small skillet, heat canola oil on low and sauté onion until starting to soften, approximately 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine sautéed onion, shredded chicken, corn and ½ cup Red Enchilada Sauce.

In a large baking dish, pour ½ cup of enchilada sauce in bottom of dish, spreading to coat evenly. Divide chicken and corn filling among 8 tortillas, roll, and place in a baking dish, seam side down. Top with remaining Red Enchilada Sauce and shredded cheese and bake until bubbly, 15-20 minutes. Top with green onions and serve.

To make your own broth from a rotisserie chicken, remove chicken from bones and set aside.  Place bones and skin in a small stock pot and cover with water.  If you have any ends or leftover bits from other vegetables (like carrots, onions, celery), throw those in the pot too.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Remove large bone and skin pieces and strain broth through a sieve.  Broth can be stored in freezer or used in any recipe that calls for chicken broth.

Enjoy!

Cranberry Pecan Spinach Salad

Cranberry Pecan Spinach Salad with Balsamic VinaigretteDuring the summer we have salads a few times a week. Some salads are fresh and herb-y, some are a meal all on their own, and this one is a perfectly sweet and salty treat to have anytime. I like this salad best with chicken or steak off the grill; baby spinach gets a sweet kick from the glazed pecans, salt from the crumbled blue cheese, all tossed in a tangy homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette.

All salads are not created equal and this one is no exception.

Ingredients:
12 oz. bag of baby spinach
½ small red onion, sliced thin
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup glazed pecans
½ cup Balsamic Vinaigrette

In a large salad bowl, combine baby spinach, sliced red onion, blue cheese, dried cranberries and glazed pecans. Toss with Balsamic Vinaigrette to evenly coat and serve. Enjoy!

Spicy Chili Honey

Spicy Chili HoneyI’m not really sure if what I’m about to tell you qualifies as a recipe or cooking but I am going to tell you anyway. You need to have Spicy Chili Honey in your pantry if you are fan of “sweet-heat” anything. I love adding this spicy kick to Homemade Ricotta Cheese with peaches for a creamy dessert, or anything that has cured salty meats, like my Hot Soppressata Pizza. I put this on a nice charcuterie board, so it can be drizzled cheeses, meats and breads… it can be a little addicting. I think I might even put a bowl of it on the table next time I make some fried chicken, because we all know drizzling a little honey on top of fried chicken makes it even better.

Ingredients:
4 oz. honey
1 tsp. crushed red pepper

Spicy Chili Honey 2In a microwave safe bowl, combine honey and crushed red pepper. Microwave for 20 seconds, stir to combine and then let stand for 10 minutes. Mixture can be used right away or will continue to get spicier as it’s stored at room temperature in a small glass container. Enjoy!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Homemade Ricotta Cheese 2Ricotta cheese is a staple in a lot of Italian cooking. I use it in lasagna, stuff shells, on pizzas, or even desserts. I always knew that making ricotta from scratch was pretty easy – there are only 4 ingredients, all of which were on hand and it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. I had a hankering for Ricotta Cheese with Peaches and Spicy Chili Honey, where the cheese is the star of the show, and wanted a high quality, fresh cheese. The selection at the grocery store in Austin is a bit, well, lacking for Ricotta, so now was the time to make my own. The results were fantastic, and luckily there was quite a bit left for more dishes throughout the week.

Even though it was one of the easiest things I’ve ever made, it felt pretty fancy to make my own cheese.

Ingredients:
½ gallon whole milk (8 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (juice from approximately 1 lemon)

Homemade Ricotta Cheese 3Line a colander with 2 layers of dampened cheesecloth and place over a large bowl.
On medium heat, combine milk, heavy cream and salt, stirring occasionally until starting to boil. Reduce heat to low and add lemon juice. Mixture will start to curdle in about 2 minutes. Continue to simmer for approximately 2 minutes more. Pour mixture into lined colander and let sit about 20 minutes so the excess liquids (whey) drain from the cheese. Empty bowl occasionally to ensure proper draining. Store unused ricotta in the refrigerator for about a week (like it would last that long!) Enjoy!

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pinwheels

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage PinwheelsIf you’ve ever walked into a pizza place in New York, you’ve seen the counter lined with pizza you can order by the slice, calzones and pinwheels.  My first stop when visiting New York is always my favorite pizza place, but I still need to get my fix between visits. These pinwheels are hearty, grab-able, appetizers for game day or just having some friends over. My all-time favorite is the classic pepperoni pinwheel, but you can put just about anything in them. Got a meat lover? Make this pepperoni and sausage variety. Feeling vegetarian? Broccoli and roasted garlic makes a divine pinwheel. Just don’t forget the cheese! Take some store bought pizza dough (or make your own) and roll away. One pound of dough makes 2 rolls, and each roll makes about 10 pinwheel slices, so this recipe is great for a group. If you’re making appetizers for just a few friends, cut the recipe in half, and make the leftover dough into garlic knots to have with dinner, or a thin crust pizza for tomorrow.

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pinwheels 2Ingredients (makes approximately 20 pinwheels):
1 lb. pizza dough
¼ lb. sliced pepperoni
¼ lb. crumbled Italian sausage, browned in skillet
8 oz. shredded mozzarella
¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. melted butter
Marinara sauce for dipping

 

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pinwheels 3Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pizza dough in half and roll each half into an approximately 9×9 square on a floured surface. Top each square with half of the pepperoni, crumbled sausage, mozzarella and Italian seasonings. Carefully roll into a log, pressing ends together so the cheese doesn’t melt out when baking. Cook for approximately 25 minutes until deep golden brown on outside and dough is cooked throughout.

 

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pinwheels 4 Let cool for 5 minutes, brush with melted butter, slice each roll into 10 pinwheels and enjoy!