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Could We

Today marks our last installment of this year’s 12 Days of Oscar.  This is the last film in this year’s lineup and the fourth film nominated for an Oscar this year.  Boyhood  was shot intermittently over twelve years with the same cast.  The film shows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) growing from grade school to college, living in Houston with his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and his sister Samantha (Lorelai Linkleter).  Eventually both Mason and Samantha deal with their parents divorce, remarriage, blended families, and the general rites of passage growing up.  Boyhood in nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Hawke), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Arquette), Best Directing, Best Writing- Original Screenplay, and Best Editing.

There are a few food moments in this film but my favorite is when Mason and his girlfriend Sheena (Zoe Graham) go to an all-night diner at 3 a.m. and have queso dip until the sun comes up.  Maybe this is because queso dip is my weakness.  I love the stuff, and I would love to sit at a diner with an endless supply of it.  I have avoided making white queso dip at home for a variety of reasons (mainly, that I know I risk eating about ten pounds of tortilla chips drenched in queso until I am in a cheese coma).  Armed with some basic cheese knowledge and all of the self-control I possess, I finally made white queso dip, and it was awesome.  This came out so well that it really was hard to stick to one serving.

queso dip

White Queso Dip


  • 1/4 lb. white American cheese
  • 1/8 lb. pepper jack cheese
  • 1/4 C. finely diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced
  • pinch of cumin
  • 1/8 – 1/4 C. milk
  • 1/8 C. amber or dark beer (optional)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil


Heat a small non-stick sauce pan over medium heat.

Saute the onion in the pan until the onion starts to brown.

Stir in the jalapeno and cook for a few more minutes.

Tear or cut the American cheese into fourths (roughly 1 inch pieces) and add to the sauce pan.

Cut the pepper jack cheese into small pieces (roughly 1/2 inch) or shred it and add to the sauce pan.

Slowly pour in a small amount of milk and whisk it into the melting cheese.

Whisk in the beer if using.

Slowly whisk in additional milk until desired consistency is reached.  If you thin out the cheese too much you can add more cheese to thicken the dip but keep in mind the cheese will thicken as it cools.

Stir in the cumin and the olive oil.

Source: Side of Sneakers


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Don’t Stop the Party

Today’s second 12 Days of Oscar post is the first of this year’s nominated films.  It is also the only one of this year’s nominees with a script I know by heart.  Despicable Me 2 is nominated this year for two Oscars, for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.  I was actually pretty miffed when Despicable Me got snubbed, so I was so glad to see the sequel get an Oscar nod.  Despicable Me 2 shows us what Gru’s post-supervillain life is like as he parents Edith, Margo, and Agnes and takes on a jelly making endeavor with Dr. Nefario and the minions.  He meets Lucy Wilde of the Anti-Villain League and shenanigans ensue.

As soon as I saw Despicable Me 2, I knew I had to try to recreate the tortilla chip hat full of guacamole that Gru wears at El Macho’s party.  It was easier than I thought to make the tortilla hat, and guacamole is the easiest dip to make as long as the avocados are ripe.  Everything about this guacamole from the presentation to the flavor was a huge hit at our house.



Guacamole (with Optional Tortilla Chip Hat)


  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 C. finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, minced (add more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 C. chopped cilantro leaves
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • juice of one lime


Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit (carefully whack the pit with a knife then turn to easily remove the pit).

Scrape the flesh out of the avocado with a spoon, into a mixing bowl or a mortar and pestle.

Mash the avocado slightly.

Add the onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and salt and stir gently to combine.

Add the lime juice and stir gently again to combine.

To make the chip hat, heat the oven to 400 degrees.  For the rim of the hat drape a 10″ or larger tortilla over an inverted pie plate.  Make the center of the hat by draping a tortilla over a small bowl or custard cup and trimming the excess.  Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until browned and crisp.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before filling with guacamole.

Source: guacamole recipe, The Kitchn

guacamole tortilla hat

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Cheese In The Face

I’m a spectator for all seasons.  Football takes me from fall through the winter.  Hockey gets me from winter to spring.  Baseball gets me from spring to fall.  We just caught a game at Yankee Stadium with friends last weekend, and we have tickets to see the New Britain Rock Cats play baseball this weekend.  The Connecticut Whale are fun to watch, and we love that tickets to see our local college’s women’s hockey team are a bargain at two dollars a game.  No matter what sporting event we take the kids to see, I suspect they’re not really there for the on-field or on-ice action.  Last summer after five innings of baseball, the thing that most excited O was a controversial race between mascots dressed as a doughnut and an iced coffee. The iced coffee knocked over the doughnut, Tonya Harding style, and O’s account was akin to something you’d see on CNN.  Then there are the concession requests.  The kiddos become bottomless pits when there are vendors milling about yelling “Peanuts! Popcorn!”  We do try to limit the amount of junk food we buy when we’re at these sporting events but a guilty pleasure here and there always makes it to our seats.  O gravitates toward popcorn, which he shovels in by the handful like he’ll never have popcorn again.  M’s number one request at any sporting event (or pretty much on a daily basis) is nachos.  She is like a moth to a flame when she sees that  neon orange cheese product squirted all over tortilla chips.  Even better when the cheese is on the side for dipping, but she doesn’t get fussy about presentation.  It’s not a sporting event for M unless there’s a boat of nachos.

I wondered if nacho cheese sauce at home could possibly compare to a stadium’s neon orange liquid cheese product, and if I could make it without a ton of work or resorting to that popular “pasteurized prepared cheese product.”  Turns out, the answer is “yes.”  This won’t help when we’re out at a ballgame this summer, but when a nacho craving hits while we’re at home we have an easy solution.  Five ingredients, a little stirring, and you have a smooth and delicious topping for pretty much anything.  I don’t recommend low or reduced fat cheese for this, because it doesn’t melt like its full-fat counterpart.  I also recommend shredding or grating the cheese yourself (as I do for any recipe calling for grated or shredded cheese) because pre-shredded cheese has stabilizers in it that keep it from melting the same way as when you shred your own.  The original recipe calls for pepper Jack cheese, but I used just cheddar to keep it as close to that bright orange stuff M stares at wide-eyed as they pour it onto her chips.  I used some corn tortillas that I had after making chicken taquitos and baked them into tortilla chips for dipping.  It could also be used to top a baked potato, poured over hot dogs, or to kill a craving for some cheese fries.  I may have created a monster . . . .

nacho cheese sauce

Nacho Cheese Sauce


  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (or 4 oz. cheddar and 4 oz. pepper Jack)
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk, divided (I used 2% and it worked great)
  • 2 tsp. hot sauce (more or less to taste)
  • pinch of salt


In a medium saucepan, combine the shredded cheese and cornstarch, tossing to evenly coat.

Stir in 1 C. of the evaporated milk and turn the heat to medium-low.

Stir in the salt and hot sauce.

Cook, stirring often, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened, smooth, and bubbling.

Stir in additional evaporated milk as desired for a thinner consistency.

Makes about 2 cups.

Source: slightly adapted from Kitchen Simplicity, originally from Serious Eats

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Monster Munch

Did you know that the Super Bowl is this Sunday?  Oh, you did?  Good, because that spares me a lot of time carrying on about football when there’s monster cookie dough dip to discuss.  I admit, I’m most interested in the Super Bowl when the New York Giants are involved but that clearly didn’t happen this season.  I’m still going to a Super Bowl party where I’ll watch to see which commercial I like best team becomes the NFL champions for the 2012 season and have a good time with friends.  Snow is in the forecast, and I’m hoping it doesn’t cause us to change our plans.  Although, if we have to change our plans I suppose the upside is that we get to keep this cookie dough dip for ourselves.

This takes all of the things you love about monster cookies and with the help of some cream cheese, turns them into a fun dessert dip.  It’s like eating all of the dough without baking a single cookie, and there’s no raw egg so it’s worry-free.  Everything comes together in one bowl, so there’s very little clean up which makes this perfect if you’re entertaining.  If you’re going to be a guest at someone else’s event, it travels well and there won’t be any leftovers to haul home when the party’s over.  As far as what items to use as a vehicle for getting this deliciousness into your mouth, I recommend animal crackers, graham crackers, ‘Nilla wafers, pretzels, or even fruit.  Feel free to add more peanut butter if you want more peanut butter flavor; I found that one cup did the trick.  If you want a thicker consistency, add more powdered sugar (obviously you can use less and have a thinner dip).  I used one and a half cups and found that gave me the right balance between “not runny” and “so thick I’m breaking all of my crackers trying to scoop this.”

monster cookie dough dip

Monster Cookie Dough Dip


  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 C. butter, softened
  • 1/2-1 C. peanut butter (use more or less depending on flavor preference)
  • 1-2 C. powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 C. oatmeal (or more if desired)
  • 1 12 oz. bag plain M&M’s
  • 1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk the cream cheese, butter, and  peanut butter until smooth.

Add the powdered sugar, starting with 1 cup and mix until combined (add more powdered sugar as desired for a thicker dip).

Add the brown sugar, flour, and vanilla and mix to combine.

Check for flavor and add more peanut butter if desired, 1/4 cup at a time.

Add the oatmeal, M&M’s, and chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Serve with items for dipping as suggested above.  If you made the dip especially thick, you may wish to provide a knife so guests can spread the dip instead of using the dipping items as a scoop.

Makes about 2 cups.

Source: adapted from Something Swanky

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Operation Chorizo

If you’re looking for an easy appetizer for any get-together, stop here.  This dip was beyond amazing.  I’m not usually a huge fan of serving dip, since it usually returns to the kitchen half eaten when it’s time to serve the meal.  That didn’t happen here.  With several appetizer choices and a huge dinner on the horizon, I had guests asking if there was any more of this chorizo dip.  I’ll admit, it’s got a little more grease to it than I thought it should at first.  Draining the chorizo after I cooked it didn’t minimize the grease factor, unfortunately.  I almost didn’t serve this because I was convinced it was a greasy, inedible mess.  It smelled so good that I had to at least try it before I cast it aside and I’m so glad I did.  Once I scooped some up with a chip, it had just the right ratio of oily to creamy and didn’t seem greasy at all.  Once my guests got to it, there wasn’t much time to ponder the ration of oily to creamy anyhow- they all had their mouths full of this chorizo dip and it’s rude to speak with your mouth full.  I can’t wait for a reason to make this again.  Like Friday, Friday is a reason, right? Or Tuesday?

chorizo dip


Chorizo and “Caramelized”* Onion Dip


  • 2 C. onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
  • 6 oz. chorizo sausage
  • 8 oz. package of cream cheese
  • ¼ C. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ C. chopped chives or green onions


Remove the chorizo from its casing and roughly dice it.

Cook in a medium skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, drain the grease and set aside.

In another skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion.

Add the thyme and lower the heat to medium-low and cook the onion for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions become soft and deep golden brown.

In a medium bowl add cream cheese and mayonnaise and mix well until smooth.

Add mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions, green onions to the cream cheese mixture and mix well.

Gently fold in the chorizo.

Pour into a 2 cup baking dish.

Place onto a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until dip is golden and bubbly.

Garnish with additional green onion and serve with baguette slices or tortilla chips.

Makes 2 cups.

Source: adapted from Foodie Crush

*If you’re wondering why the “caramelized” is in quotation marks, it’s because the onions in this really aren’t caramelized.  Proper caramelization of onions takes about forty-five minutes from slicing to caramelized onion heaven, and these onions take about twenty.  I know it seems like I’m splitting hairs here,  but caramelized onions are a deep brown and taste sort of sweet and buttery whereas onions that have been sautéed for twenty minutes have a nice golden brown color but still taste very much like onions.  It takes about forty-five minutes (depending on onion type) for onions to release that much of their sugars and be truly caramelized.  For this dip, you definitely want your onion to be a nice golden brown and have an onion flavor so it’s not a problem that they aren’t truly caramelized.

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The Big Ranch

I know we discussed my summertime obsession with salad yesterday, but I just didn’t feel like we did the matter justice.  Okay, I kid, justice was served.  Still, it seemed unfair to share the Good Seasons knockoff and not also discuss my other most favorite dressing in the whole world, ranch.  What I usually don’t like about grocery store versions is that it just tastes like seasoned mayonnaise, which is fine for a potato salad, but not what I want on my garden salad.

For a few years now, when I want ranch dressing, this is how I make it.  It’s easy, I usually always have the ingredients on hand, and it all goes right into the food processor so there’s not a lot of cleanup.  I love this on a fresh garden salad, or to dip veggies in as a snack.  It’s creamy and tangy, and garlicky.  I store mine in a resealable container, keep it refrigerated, and hide it from anyone else in the house who might want some.  Okay, maybe not the last part, but it is that good.

Ranch Dressing


  •  2 cloves garlic
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 C. Italian flat-leaf Parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives
  • 1 C. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C. sour cream
  • Buttermilk (as needed to thin the dressing to desired consistency, optional)
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh dill (optional, use more or less to taste)


Put all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade.

Process until all ingredients are combined and the dressing is smooth.

Put dressing in a resealable container and keep refrigerated.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Source: The Pioneer Woman

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