Queso Blanco

Queso Blanco

Many make Queso with the “cheese food product” that can sit on the shelf through the ages, but I like real food and knew that there had to be a way to make “real” Queso with real cheese.  Tried all kinds of cheeses but wasn’t having much luck.  The dip would end out stringy or a great big lump of rubbery cheese.  I knew that Mexican restaurants had been making Queso for a long time and not all of them were using the stuff you get in a jar or the “cheese food product”, so started asking around, got several recipes and then “tweaked” it to make it the way I liked it.  Here is the final product.  Hope you like it.

1 cup of asadero cheese or chihuahua cheese, shredded fine – Some of the recipes used Monterey Jack and added 2 tablespoons of cream cheese to the recipe, but it was not as flavorful as using the Mexican cheeses.  In a pinch, if you cannot find the Mexican cheeses, you can use that option.

4 ounces green chilies, chopped

1/4 cup half and half

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped fine

Put all the ingredients into a double boiler and heat on medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted and well blended.  Keep warm and serve with chips or tortillas.

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Homemade Marshmallows

homemade marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows have hit the big time.  Everywhere you go, you see little bags of these fluffy squares in all types of flavors and colors.  But if you are like me, once you see the price on these little bags of fluff, you put them back and go home and make your own.

The taste of homemade marshmallows is unbelievably rich compared to the store-bought, tubes of plastic bagged confections. And with the homemade variety you have the opportunity to flavor or shape them as you desire.  The end result is well worth the effort.

3 packages (1/4-ounce each) unflavored gelatin
1 cup (8 ounces) cool water, divided
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup (11 ounces) light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) vanilla extract (delete if using another extract or flavor)
“Add ins” – 1/4 tsp. peppermint oil,  1/8 tsp. cinnamon oil (use this sparingly), 1 tsp. raspberry extract, 1 tsp. chocolate flavoring, 1 tsp. rum flavoring, 1 tsp. espresso powder, 1 tsp. lemon extract etc.  Couple drops of food coloring – what ever color you want.  Just experiment.
confectioners’ sugar, to sprinkle on top

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup cool water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup cool water in a small, deep saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

With mixer on low-speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the softened gelatin. Increase the speed to high, and whip until the mixture is very thick and fluffy, and has cooled to lukewarm, 8 to 10 minutes. (It should be cool enough that you can spread it into the pan without burning your fingers.)

Add vanilla towards the end of the mixing time. This is also the time to add a few drops of peppermint oil or any other extract, if desired, instead of vanilla extract, and the food coloring if you want them colored.  You can swirl in the colors instead of completely mixing to get a really pretty effect.

Spread the marshmallow mixture into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan (glass or ceramic is best). Use your wet hands to smooth and flatten the marshmallows. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the top, and let sit for several hours (or overnight) before cutting. Use a greased knife or cookie cutters to make squares or other shapes.

Pizza Popcorn

pizza popcorn

We eat a lot of snacks at our house.  Popcorn is a big favorite.  We like all kinds of popcorn, sweet, sticky, buttery, savory, any type, any flavor.  This one has always been a favorite of ours.  It has just a little kick.  If you don’t like spicy at all, leave out the red pepper flakes.

1/4 cup butter

1/2 tsp. crushed oregano

1/2 tsp. granulated garlic

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. crushed basil

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you like it really spicy)

12 cups freshly popped popcorn

8 tablespoon parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Stir in spices and salt and heat for 1 minute.  Pour over popcorn.  Sprinkle with grated cheese.  Toss to coat.  Serve hot.