Mexican Layer Dip

My daughter recently had a camp out with a few friends in our backyard. They slept in a giant, 14-person tent. What fun! 🙂 The camping was combined with another event on their summer bucket list- a “dip-night.” (inspired by TikTok 😉 )

The girls each contributed a different dip, savory or sweet, to create the feast. We made this Mexican layer dip and served it with tortilla chips and Trader Joe’s corn dippers. The recipe was adapted from ThePioneerWoman.com. I loved that her version incorporated warm beans as the base of the dip. It was an easy crowd-pleaser.

  • 1 can refried beans (I used Trader Joe’s Fat Free Refried Beans)
  • hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula, to taste (I omitted it for this crowd)
  • 1 can diced green chilies (I used Trader Joe’s mild green chilies)
  • ground cumin, to taste
  • 3/4 to 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (mild or sharp)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • freshly made guacamole (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 cup Pico de Gallo (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 can sliced black olives (I omitted them)
  • kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish, optional
  • sliced or diced jalapeños, for garnish, optional
  • tortilla chips (and/or other corn chips), for serving
  1. Begin by heating the refried beans in a small pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add one or two dashes of hot sauce, if using, and a small can of undrained diced green chilies. Stir well.
  3. Sprinkle the bean-chile mixture with a little bit of ground cumin. Stir to incorporate.
  4. Spread the beans on the bottom of a glass bowl or high-sided or wide serving dish.
  5. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar evenly over the top.
  6. Next, dollop the sour cream over the cheese. Spread it into a single layer, as much as possible, being careful not to disturb the cheese underneath.
  7. The next layer is the guacamole. (I used my favorite guacamole recipe (link above) using 2 avocados and garlic-chipotle salsa. This time, I omitted our traditional add-ins of chopped tomatoes and red onions.)
  8. Next, sprinkle an even layer of shredded Monterey Jack cheese over the guacamole.
  9. Top with a generous layer of Pico de Gallo.
  10. Sprinkle chopped black olives over the top, if using.
  11. Microwave an ear of fresh corn for 1 minute on high. When cool enough to handle, place upright in a bowl and slice of the kernels. Sprinkle the kernels over the top as the final layer.
  12. Garnish with jalapeños and cilantro, if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.

Baked Rigatoni with Cheddar & Broccoli Rabe

I love a cheesy baked pasta loaded with greens. 🙂 This one was bursting with broccoli rabe (of which I am a huge fan) but it could have easily incorporated broccoli, baby broccolini, or other greens such as collards, spinach, and/or kale instead. We ate it with garlic bread and green salad. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Alison Roman. I was a little bit concerned about the spice level after adding an entire teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, but the finished result was perfect. I baked the casserole in a Dutch oven and the cheesy bread crumb topping formed an incredible crispy crust over the entire top. I may consider adding garlic next time, but it was amazing without it!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 lb rigatoni, ziti, or fusilli
  • 8 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
  • minced garlic, optional
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe or 3 bunches baby broccolini, trimmed, coarsely chopped (I cut the stems into 2-inch pieces and the leaves into 3-inch pieces)(see alternate green vegetable alternatives above)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated (about 3 cups), divided (I used 10 oz extra-sharp white cheddar and 2 oz white Beecher’s Flagship Handmade Cheese)
  • 1 bunch chives, chopped, divided (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs or panko (I used a blend of the two)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking together, until just barely al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  4. Add leeks and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened (but not so much that they don’t have any texture left) and starting to brown, 5–10 minutes.
  5. Add red pepper flakes and garlic, if using, to leeks and stir to incorporate.
  6. Add broccoli rabe by the handful, stirring to combine and allowing each addition to wilt before adding more.
  7. Season with salt and black pepper.
  8. Once all of the broccoli rabe has been added, cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside.
  9. Add pasta to reserved broccoli rabe mixture along with cream, three-quarters of the cheese, 2/3 of the chopped chives, and reserved pasta cooking liquid; mix well. Season with salt and black pepper and add more red pepper flakes if you prefer more heat (keep in mind that the saltiness and spiciness will increase as the pasta bakes).(I didn’t add any additional heat.)
  10. Transfer pasta to a 3-qt. baking dish (or, if your Dutch oven is ovenproof, just leave it in there). (I scraped down the sides of my Dutch oven and kept the mixture in it to bake- less dishes!)
  11. Toss breadcrumbs and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium bowl until coated; season with salt and black pepper.
  12. Scatter breadcrumbs over pasta, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
  13. Bake until pasta is bubbling across the entire surface and breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, 22 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  14. Scatter remaining chives over pasta just before serving.

Rich Turkey Chili with Bacon, Dark Beer & Chocolate

My daughter and I really enjoy watching Queer Eye on Netflix together. It is so positive and full of love. She is particularly a fan of Antoni, the chef. We were excited to check out his cookbook! 🙂

This fabulous chili recipe was adapted from Antoni in the Kitchen by Antoni Porowski. I modified the proportions. It was rich, full-flavored, and hearty. We ate it with lots of toppings, cornbread muffins and green salad. I’m planning to make it again to serve on a really chilly evening. Everyone loved it.

Super Bowl 2021 Update: This chili was absolutely delicious served with beer bread.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Chili:

  • 1/3 to 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips (4-5 slices)
  • 1 3/4 to 2 pounds ground turkey, preferably dark meat
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 medium or 1 1/2 large onions, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into small cubes
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 5 to 8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, seeded (if desired), finely chopped, plus 1 to 2 T adobo sauce (I didn’t seed the chile)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 (15-oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (12-oz) bottle dark beer (such as Guiness or Negra Modelo)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (scant 1/2 cup) (I used 72% cacao)
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp molasses or dark brown sugar

For the Toppings:

  • sliced avocado
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • grated cheddar
  • diced red or white onion
  • pickled jalapeños
  • sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • lime wedges
  1. In a large Dutch oven or other wide heavy pot with a lid, cook the bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a large bowl.
  2. Cook the turkey in the remaining bacon fat over high heat, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat into small bits with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  3. Season turkey with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, then transfer and any juices to the bowl with the bacon.
  4. Heat the oil in the same pot over medium to medium-high heat.
  5. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and the onions are golden, about 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring, then stir in the chipotle and adobo sauce, oregano, cumin, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add the beans, crushed tomatoes, beer, stock, chocolate, and turkey-bacon mixture. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chili is deeply flavorful, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  8. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vinegar and molasses or brown sugar.
  9. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. Serve hot with toppings, as desired.

Lee Brothers’ Pimento Cheese

My friend served delicious pimento cheese sandwiches recently- reminding me how much I enjoy them. 🙂 Eating them also reminded me that I wanted to try this version from Charleston, South Carolina.

The recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by the Lee Brothers. I used Cabot 3-year sharp cheddar cheese. I served it on the Fourth of July as a dip with crackers and pita chips. Alternatively, it could be used to fill about 4 sandwiches. Easy and fabulous.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

  • 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated with a food processor or hand grater (not pre-grated)
  • 1/4 cup softened cream cheese (2 ounces), pulled into several pieces
  • scant 1/2 cup jarred pimento or other roasted red peppers (from a 7-ounce jar), finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons Duke’s, Hellmann’s or other high-quality store-bought mayonnaise (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a large mixing bowl, place the cheddar cheese in an even layer.
  2. Scatter the cream cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise and chile flakes over the cheddar cheese.
  3. Using a spatula, mix the pimento cheese until it is smooth and spreadable, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the pimento cheese to a plastic container or bowl, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator.
  5. Serve as a sandwich spread or as a dip.

Note: Pimento cheese keeps in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Corn, Bacon & Cheddar Pie

I do have a few more desserts to share, but I am interrupting those posts to share this amazing savory pie. It was ridiculously good. Worth every calorie in every indulgent bite. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark.  I incorporated whole wheat pastry flour in the cornmeal crust (delicious) and adapted the method.

I made it with fresh sweet corn but I can imagine it would also be wonderful with frozen corn. We ate it with roasted potatoes and a giant green salad- a very satisfying meal. Fluffy and fabulous!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Crust:

  • 1/2 cup/65 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 cup/65 grams whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute all-purpose)
  • 1/4 cup/40 grams cornmeal or polenta/grits
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup/115 grams cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cubed
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 large or 1 small red onion
  • 1 T fresh lime juice, plus more to taste (from 1/2 lime)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • pinch of granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces bacon (4 slices), diced
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (from 2 ears if fresh)
  • 2 T chopped pickled jalapeño, plus more slices for topping (I used Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Green Chilies)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup coarsely shredded sharp Cheddar (3 ounces)
  • 3 T chopped parsley

To Prepare the Crust:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, or in a large bowl, pulse or mix together flour(s), cornmeal and salt until combined.
  2. Add butter, and either pulse or use your finger to smoosh it in until butter is the size of lima beans.
  3. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse or mix just until dough comes together. There should still be large flecks of butter left in dough.
  4. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. (At this point, I placed the disk in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.)
  5. Between 2 layers of plastic wrap, or on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 12-inch circle.
  6. Transfer dough to a 9-inch deep pie plate; trim and crimp edges. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before baking. (Dough can be made up to 5 days ahead.)(I made the dough the night before.)

To Make the Filling and Finish the Pie:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Place the pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Prick the bottom of the pie crust with a fork. Line with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove foil or paper and pie weights or beans. Bake until pale golden and dry to the touch, about 4 to 7 minutes more.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  5. While crust is chilling and baking, prepare the filling: Cut red onion in half across the equator (not root to stem), then from the center, cut out two very thin, round slices. Separate onion slices into rings and put them in a bowl with lime juice and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Set aside while you assemble the rest of the tart. (I used half-moons because I used 1/2 of a red onion.)
  6. Coarsely chop remaining onion and set aside. (I used half-moons in the filling as well.)
  7. Scatter diced bacon in a cold 12-inch skillet. (I used a cast iron skillet.) Turn heat to medium, and cook until the bacon is golden and the fat has rendered, 8 to 14 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate. Leave fat in the skillet.
  8. Stir chopped onion into pan with bacon fat and place over medium heat. Sauté until golden-edged and translucent, about 6 minutes.
  9. Stir in corn, 1/2 teaspoon salt and chopped pickled jalapeño. Cook until corn is tender, 2 to 5 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and scoop 1/2 cup corn mixture into a blender. (I used a Vitamix.)
  11. Add cream, sour cream and eggs. Blend until you get a purée.
  12. Using a spatula, scrape corn purée back in pan with whole corn kernels.
  13. Stir in 1/2 cup Cheddar, the parsley and the cooked bacon.
  14. Scrape mixture into the baked pie shell.
  15. Top filling mixture with pickled red onion slices and jalapeño slices. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Cheddar.
  16. Cover the edge of the pie crust to prevent over-browning.
  17. Bake until puffed, golden and just set, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Savory Smoky & Cheesy Cookies

Making these savory cookies was more of a risky endeavor than trying a new type of soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day. I was happy with the results! They were flaky, cheesy, and biscuit-like.  Lovely served as an appetizer with a glass of wine or beer.

A friend commented that they shouldn’t be called “cookies.” I absolutely agree, but it’s hard to argue with Dorie Greenspan. I’m also not sure what to call them instead. They were too cookie-like to call them crackers and too cookie-like to call them biscuits… too savory to be “cookies” though!

This recipe was adapted from Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan. I refroze the cut shapes prior to baking. I weighed all of the ingredients and the texture was perfect. The shape could be adapted for any holiday or cut into simple circles for any occasion. Nice!

Yield: about 22 shamrock cookies

  1. Combine cold butter, Gouda, cheddar, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a food processor; pulse until butter is in bits and the mixture forms small curds.
  2. Add flour; pulse until dough looks moist and forms large popcorn-sized curds.
  3. Turn dough out onto a flat surface; knead gently just until it comes together and you can shape it into a ball. Divide into 2 pieces. Pat each piece into a disk.
  4. Place 1 disk between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Roll to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Repeat with second disk.
  5. Stack sheets of dough on a baking sheet. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. (I froze the dough overnight.)
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), preferably on convection.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  8. Peel parchment paper/plastic wrap off 1 sheet of frozen dough. Cut into cookies using a 1 1/2-inch-diameter cutter, or cookie cutter of choice (my shamrock cookie cutter was larger). Stack the cut shapes with plastic wrap between each. Refreeze for 15 minutes prior to baking.
  9. Arrange 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second sheet of dough.
  10. Bake cookies in the preheated oven until lightly golden on the bottom, about 15 to 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Cookies are done when bottoms are golden brown and tops are lightly golden.
  11. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 10 minutes.
  12. Gather dough scraps, roll to a thickness of 1/4-inch, and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Cut into cookies, refreeze cut shapes, and bake on a cooled baking sheet.

Note: The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; cut and bake directly from the freezer.

The baked cookies can be kept in a covered container for about 4 days at room temperature, or wrapped airtight for up to 2 months in the freezer.

One Year Ago: Easy Churros

Two Years Ago: Samoa Brownies

Three Years Ago: Apple Biscoff Crumble

Four Years Ago: Asparagus Mimosa and Rutabaga Oven Fries

Five Years Ago:

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Cauliflower & Tomatoes

I have a couple family friendly comfort food pasta casseroles to share. In my house, this type of dish always seems to be the perfect meal in cold weather.

We recently enjoyed this one on a snowy evening- eating by candlelight. I thanked my lucky stars that it had finished baking before our power went out… hence the candlelight! 😉

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I used diced tomatoes and substituted fontina for provolone. I suppose half and half could be substituted for some (or all) of the heavy cream, but I went for the full indulgence on this (dark and cold) occasion.

  • 1 pound pasta, such as medium shell or tube pasta (I used Capunti pasta)
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 4 ounces fontina, coarsely grated
  • 2 ounces extra sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ head of cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • room-temperature butter or nonstick cooking oil spray (for pan)
  • fresh herbs such as thyme, basil, or parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until about halfway cooked (it needs to be very firm at this stage so that it doesn’t overcook when baked). Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid, and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
  3. Combine mozzarella, fontina, cheddar, Parmesan, cream, diced tomatoes, and reserved ½ cup pasta cooking liquid in a large bowl; mix to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Add cauliflower and cooked pasta and toss to coat.
  5. Grease a 3-qt. or 13x9x2″ baking dish with butter or cooking oil spray.
  6. Scrape in pasta mixture and spread out into an even layer.
  7. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake pasta until hot throughout and steaming when foil is lifted, 20–25 minutes.
  8. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 425◦, preferably on convection.
  9. Continue to bake pasta until sauce is bubbling and top is browned and crunchy in spots, 20–30 minutes.
  10. Let cool slightly before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs, as desired.

Note: Pasta can be assembled 2 days ahead. Cover and chill until ready to bake.

One Year Ago: Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

Two Years Ago: Oscar Night Waffles

Three Years Ago: Chicken Parmesan with Chicken Thighs

Four Years Ago: Chicken, Shrimp, & Clam Jambalaya

Five Years Ago:

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