My Favorite Monterey Jack Queso


Queso 2015 010

Queso is one of my very favorite foods.  The one thing that I’ll almost definitely order at a restaurant if it’s on the menu.  That being said, I’m kind of picky.

I have standards, you know?.  I like it cheesy (but not processed), creamy, slightly spicy, and it has to have colored peppers.

This queso, is all of those things.  It’s made with real Monterey Jack Pepper cheese from the refrigerated section (no less)!  It’s creamy, cheesy, and it has chopped up fresh jalapenos and red bell peppers.

It’s like angels singing, well almost.  ;-)

Just a note: Please be sure to pick up the block of cheese instead of any shredded cheese in a bag – I used Tillamook!  The shredded cheese has a powder on it to prevent the cheese from caking in the bag, so the block cheese will melt much better.

Monterey Jack Queso Adapted from BHG Appetizers

1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, more as needed to thin

2  heaping (lightly packed) cups of shredded Monterey Pepper Jack Cheese (I buy the block & shred myself)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch (or flour)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sugar

large pinch of coarse kosher salt

1 – 2 jalapenos (seeded and finely chopped)*

1/3 of a large red bell pepper (seeded and finely chopped)*

cilantro, chopped (optional)

In a medium bowl, toss the shredded cheese with cornstarch to coat.  Set aside.

In a medium pot, sauté the onions in butter (on medium heat) until they are translucent.  Add in the heavy cream, cumin, sugar and salt.  Then stir in half of the cheese, stirring for a few minutes until melted.

Add in the remaining cheese, and stir in until melted.  Add in the peppers.  Stir until combined.  Add more heavy cream if needed to thin sauce consistency, if you prefer.

Serve warm with a sprinkling of cilantro.

Enjoy with tortillas, tortilla chips, on top of enchiladas, or fresh veggies.  Store any leftovers in a covered container, and use within 3 days.

*Feel free to add more peppers if you like it spicy!  Just taste as you add.

Gingerbread Mummies & Skeletons


September Halloween Cookies 021I couldn’t let Halloween pass without sharing my super cute gingerbread mummies and skeletons!  I mean, who doesn’t love a good soft gingerbread cookie??  These cuties are perfect when you only want to make one cookie and one icing, but you still want to have a little variety.

Bake them because they’re cute, because it’s almost Halloween, because it’ll make your house smell amazing!!!

I used a 3-inch gingerbread man cookie cutter, making these the perfect three-bite treat.  I dare you to eat just one!

Gingerbread Adapted from Martha Stewart

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses (I used Grandma’s Brand)

In a large bowl whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside. In a food processor, pulse the butter and brown sugar together until creamed. Add the egg and molasses and pulse until well combined.

Add in the flour/spice mixture all at once and pulse until everything is completely incorporated. The dough will be very sticky, but resist the urge to add more flour.

Set a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter, and spoon the dough onto it. Wrap the dough up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until the next day.

When you’re ready to bake your cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then roll the dough 1/4 an inch thick on a lightly floured surface, and cut with cookie cutters. Place cut outs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Transfer the cookies (left on the parchment) to a wire rack to cool immediately out of the oven.

Once cool, frost with royal icing (recipe below).

For the mummy: pipe icing in a zig zag pattern with either a plain tip or a petal tip, then top with two black edible pearls for the mummy’s eyes.

For the skeletons: simply pipe a line down the body to the left leg, then pipe in the right leg.  Go back and pipe a small line across for the skull, a larger line for the arms, and a small line for the pelvic bones – the icing lines will flow into each other.  Let dry completely – about 4-5 hours (or preferably overnight) before storing in a covered container.


Creamy Royal Icing Adapted from Lizy B Bakes and The Decorated Cookie

2 pounds powdered sugar

6 Tablespoons meringue powder

3/4 cup water

2 Tablespoons corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon shortening

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the powdered sugar.  Mix using the paddle attachment for about 1 minute.  In a measuring cup, add the water and meringue powder – mix together vigorously with a fork.  Let set for 10 minutes.

Then pour the meringue mixture through a sieve into the powdered sugar, blend and add the corn syrup.  Blend together on 3 for 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick, creamy, and almost doubled in size.

Then add the vanilla and shortening, beating on 3 just until combined.  Now is the time to beat in any coloring you’d like.  If I just want white, I add white coloring, if I don’t the butter from the sugar cookie turns my icing yellow.  So add the white coloring!

The icing is now ready to be scooped into icing bags, if you are piping borders!  You can also fill in the cookie using the same consistency and the lines from the piping tip will fade for the most part. This is my preferred method, because it reduces air bubbles in the icing.

However, if you need a true flooding consistency then add 2  Tablespoons of water (at a time) mixing on 1 to incorporate.  Then lift the beaters, and if the icing flows in ribbons and melts back into the bowl of icing it’s ready!  If it’s too stiff, add more water, a teaspoon at a time until you get the right consistency.



The Best Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

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October 2015 032

Confession time!  I haven’t had a sugar cookie in over 13 years!  I can’t believe I waited so long to make some.

These are fabulous, soft and buttery.  Perfect for sprinkles, or a dollop of frosting – and just in time for holiday baking!

The Best Gluten Free Sugar Cookies Adapted from Gluten Free Classic Snacks

2 cups Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 – 2 Tablespoons whole milk, only as needed to bring the dough together

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheets with parchment.  Set aside.

In a food processor, place the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and powdered sugar – pulse until well combined.  Add in the butter and pulse until completely incorporated.

Add in the egg and vanilla and pulse until the dough comes together.  Add in a Tablespoon of milk at a time, pulsing until the dough comes together in a ball.

Scoop dough onto a sheet of parchment and flatten out a little with your hands.  Top the dough with another layer of parchment and roll the dough out (between the parchment) – about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut shapes and place the cut dough onto a prepared baking sheet.

Gather up the scraps of dough and reroll between parchment.  Continue making cut outs until all of the dough is used.  Add sprinkles before baking, if desired.

Then bake each sheet of cookies for 6 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies sit on the hot cookie sheet for an additional 5 minutes.

They are really soft (like all cookies) right out of the oven!  So let them cool for about an hour before frosting.

Keep in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Rosemary Oven Roasted Potatoes

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Faith's Birthday August 2015 177This is the before photo – doesn’t it look yummy?!

Faith's Birthday August 2015 248

And here is the after photo – the rosemary looks a little spent, but the potatoes are gorgeous!

My kids love these potatoes more than French fries, and they’re requested most often when we have burgers.  However, they would be equally delicious along side some eggs and bacon, roasted chicken, or a nice steak.

Rosemary Oven Roasted Potatoes

10 golden yellow potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into large cubes/large wedges

3 Tablespoons good olive oil (or enough to coat the potatoes)

1 spring fresh rosemary, chop half the leaves – keep the branch!

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a large rimmed baking pan with foil.

Place the potatoes on the foil-lined pan and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss with salt & pepper to taste, and sprinkle with the chopped rosemary leaves.  Top the potatoes with the remaining rosemary sprig.

Bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until the potatoes are as brown as you like!





Homemade Graham Crackers

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September 2015 Pie 079

Aren’t graham crackers just magical?!  Who knew they were so easy to make & egg-free to boot.  Double win!

You’re going to love these!  I use them to make graham cracker crust, witches hat s’mores, & salted graham cracker crumbs for ice cream.

Unbaked dough does not freeze well; however, the baked off dough is excellent frozen.

Homemade Graham Crackers Adapted from Alton Brown

1 1/2 cups coarse ground wheat flour

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into Tablespoons

5 Tablespoons maple syrup

3 Tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In the bowl of a food processor, add the first 7 ingredients and pulse until combined.  Add in the cold butter  and pulse until the mixture looks like sand.

Add in the maple syrup, heavy cream, and vanilla, and pulse until the mixture comes together.  Then scoop the dough out onto plastic wrap, wrap it up, flatten it into a disc and put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Once the dough has chilled, unwrap it and cut it in half.  Lightly dust a sheet of parchment paper with flour and roll one half of the dough out on it in a thin layer.

At this point you can use a pizza cutter to cut a perfect rectangle and individual squares, or you can bake the whole off as is – I usually do this when I’m making graham cracker crust or salted graham cracker crumbles out of it.

Then you need to prick the dough with a fork so the dough bakes evenly.  Bake on a cookie sheet in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool on the cookie sheet.  This is important as it helps the cookie harden!


The Best GF Blueberry Muffins

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September 2015 082

Like the title says, these are without a doubt the best gluten free blueberry muffins I’ve ever had.  They’re soft and fluffy, sweet, with a pop of tart blueberry.

The photo is a little deceiving, because despite the light brown bottom, these are completely soft – not tough at all!!

September 2015 088

I like to make a batch of these, then freeze them, and microwave them on defrost when a craving strikes.

The Best GF Blueberry Muffins Adapted from Once Upon a Chef

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 1/2 cups Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat together the butter, oil, and sugar for about 2 minutes.  Add in the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract.  Beat just until combined.

Add in the baking powder and salt beating on low, then slowly add in the flour.  When the flour is almost completely incorporated add in the sour cream.  Beat just until blended.

Stir in the blueberries with a wooden spoon.  Using a yellow zeroll scoop (1.77 ounces) dish out the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin to check for doneness – when it comes out clean they’re ready!  Let muffins stand in baking pan for 2 minutes, then carefully remove muffins from the pan and place on a cooling rack.




Chewy Brownie Thins


September 2015 094

Brownie thins are so easy to make, and they are the perfect lunchbox treat or afterschool snack.  I like that they’re crunchy on the edges, chewy in the middle and since they’re thin – they’re a small indulgence we can all feel good about!

Chewy Brownie Thins Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (regular or dutch processed)

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder

3/4 cup chocolate chips, divided

3/4 cup mini M&Ms, divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the first three ingredients – set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy and add sugar, cocoa powder, canola oil, vanilla, and milk powder.  Whisk until combined.

Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.  Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup mini M&Ms to the batter and stir until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread out into a thin layer, take the remaining chocolate chips and mini M&Ms and scatter them on top of the batter.

Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes.  Take the brownies out and carefully cut them into squares – I used a plastic knife (to prevent scratching my baking pan), then return them to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.

Take them out of the oven and let them cool in the pan.  Take them out of the pan and break them into pieces.

These keep well in a covered container for up to 5 days.


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