When you have had a bad day and the weight of the world feels like it is closing in on you, what do you do to make yourself feel better? Many of us head to the kitchen for comfort foods. It could be anything from French fries to Twinkies, but we all have something that comforts us. For me it is chips and dip.
I come by it honestly. My mother ate the same thing and I probably accepted it as the thing to do before I could even talk. When she was on a diet (most of her adult life) it was potato chips and cottage cheese. Other times she went for the more fattening options with great relish. I don’t know if this made her feel better, but she seemed happier when she was snacking.
I am an equal opportunity dipper, whatever is handy usually works for me. I love hummus and bean dips, Texas Caviar, and all kinds of salsas. But I definitely do have two favorites. The old classic, onion dip made with Lipton Onion Soup Mix and sour cream has soothed many nights. My other favorite is today’s recipe, Mexican cheese dip, a regular feature on long nights when I am writing these articles.
You can make this with a jar of processed cheese dip, but once you have made it from scratch you will never be satisfied with imitation again. The beauty of making is yourself is that you can customize it to your personal preferences. If you like a smoky flavor, use chipotles en adobo in place of the jalapenos, or if you like a lot of heat, use both. Some people can’t stand cilantro – no problem, replace it with parsley, chives, or even thyme.
Most of these ingredients are usually in my refrigerator and pantry, so I can have this on the table in no time … I love that!
Sometimes when I know that I probably won’t be eating much else or want a more substantial snack, I stir in a can of refried beans, before adding the cheese. This adds a protein source and fiber. The protein helps keep your blood sugar stable so it doesn’t crash after eating a lot of carbs.
This is also one of my favorite appetizers for casual get togethers. It is ready in less than half an hour and everyone loves it, especially kids. If I have little ones in the crowd, I make two versions, one with heat and one without. Just make sure you label them or put them in different colored containers so you can tell them apart. If the Giants make it to the World Series again you can bet this will be on the menu!
Dang it, now I want another bowl of queso and a bag of chips, LOL. Who wants to join me in the kitchen for a little late night noshing? Ah, c’mon, you know you want to.
Have a wonderful weekend my friends and Happy Festive Friday!
Kitchen Skill: How to Chop an Onion
Cut the onion in half lengthwise – through the root. Cut the stem end off and peel back the dry outer layers. If you leave them attached to the root end, you’ll have something to hold onto and leaving the root intact holds the onion together while you slice it.
Working with one half at a time, lay the onion on a cutting board, cut side down. Slice it lengthwise, without cutting into the root. If you want a small dice, make a lot of parallel slices. For a large chop, your slices will be fewer and farther apart. Turn the onion 90 degrees and slice perpendicular to your first cuts. Remember, the sharper your knife, the less you will cry!
Mexican Cheese Dip (Queso Fundido al Tequila)
Yield: 6 servings
This simple, 20-minute dip of melted cheese flavored with tomatoes, chiles, onion and a hint of tequila is just the thing to satisfy a sudden craving for something warm, salty and gooey.
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 tbsp tequila (you can also use white wine)
1/2 lb (3 cups) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Warm corn tortillas or corn chips, for serving
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the diced tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, and a large pinch of salt. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Pour in the tequila (off the heat) and cook, stirring frequently, until the skillet looks nearly dry, about 2 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese and cook, stirring constantly, until fully melted, about 30 seconds. Quickly transfer the queso fundido to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately with tortillas or chips.
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