Pimento Cheese Queso Dip

This recipe comes from a great food/recipe/cooking blog, Creole Contessa, and is also featured in the cookbook, The Classic Slow Cooker.  This recipe which can be an appetizer, snack, side dish or sometimes in my case a main dish, it terrific!  Very easy and sure to be a crowd pleaser.  Great party dish as it can be made ahead of time and kept warm in the crock pot until ready to serve.  Enjoy with crusty french bread, tortilla chips, pretzels or even veggie crudités.  Sooooo much better than that store bought jar of queso cheese dip!

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1 (4 oz.) jar diced pimiento peppers, drained
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup mozzarella, diced
1 cup jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup green salsa
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder


~Place all the dip ingredients into a slow cooker and mix well.  Cook on low for about 2 hours, stirring a few times.

~Serve with toasted french bread dippers (as shown in photos here), tortilla chips, pretzels, bread cubes and could even do veggie crudités.

Empanadillas & Red Pepper Soup
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*Meatless Meal*


One of my boys likes to cook.  He has learned a lot the last few years helping me in the kitchen preparing and cooking meals.  He has taken a few cooking classes at some of our area shops that offer them.  I think it is so important to learn the basics of cooking and feel comfortable in the kitchen whether you are a boy or a girl.  It sets you up for a much healthier lifestyle, will always save you money as you become an adult and have to purchase your own food, and it is a great way to come together as a family.  I hope that all of my boys will have learned enough about cooking that once they do get to that point when they move out on their own, they will have the ability to cook for themselves and enjoy doing so.  Where am I going with this?  Well my son made the empanadillas for this dinner and he did a terrific job.  We had fun together in the kitchen and had lots of nice conversation while we cooked.  These are the times I will remember fondly.  The empanadillas came out great and my son was able to add another recipe to his répertoire!

This recipe is from the cookbook, Fun & Festive Food and Drink by Publications International, Ltd.

***Note:  This recipe makes 6 servings or 6 empanadillas.  Double it like I did if you need more for your group. Just make sure to add additional ingredients needed to grocery list.


1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 package (10 ounces) frozen puff pastry shells, thawed
All-purpose flour


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In medium bowl stir together shredded mozzarella, pine nuts, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper.
  • Roll our pastry shells into 5-inch circles on lightly floured surface.  Place 3 Tbsp cheese mixture on one half of each circle. Brush edges of pastry with water.  Fold pastry in half over filling; press edges with fork dipped in flour to seal.  Place on prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake 2- minutes or until puffed and golden brown.  Remove to cool on wire rack.  Serve warm with soup.

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***Note;  You may add additional ingredients to your filling as you desire.  The original recipe calls for 1 clove minced garlic, 1 shallot, thinly sliced, and 6 cups baby spinach.  We made these on the fly and didn’t have all of these ingredients so I published the recipe with what we had on hand.  Feel free to add the additional items.  The directions to do so are as follows:  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and shallot; cook and stir 30 seconds.  Add spinach; cook and stir 3 minutes or until spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese mixture.  Let cool and fill pastry shells as instructed above.

We found the recipe for the Red Pepper Soup from countryliving.com.  Click here for recipe!


IMG_7690/roasted red pepper soup



Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza
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4 servings ( 2 slices each)  I doubled this recipe for my family and made 2 pizzas because 1 was not enough for 5.  If you want to make 2 pizzas, make sure to double ingredients on the grocery list if using so you have enough to make 2 pizzas.


4 cups cauliflower florets ( 1 head cauliflower)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup yellow, red or green sweet pepper strips
1 tsp olive oil
1 small jar pizza sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
snipped fresh herbs, basil, oregano and/or parsley (optional)
cheese cloth (optional for preparation, see directions)


  1. Place cauliflower in a food processor.  Cover and pulse 4 – 6 times or until crumbly and mixture resembles the texture of couscous.

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Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place cauliflower in a microwave-safe casserole dish or bowl with 2 Tbsp water.  Microwave, covered, 3 – 4 minutes or until tender, stirring once or twice.  Cool.  Transfer cauliflower to a 100% cotton flour sack towel or to a piece of cheese cloth the size of a dish towel.  (I used cheese cloth which was very easy to work with for this process.  Cheese cloth can be found at most grocery stores in the kitchen supply aisle.)  Wrap the cloth around cauliflower and squeeze and drain until there is no more liquid.  Quite a bit of liquid will be squeezed out so keep working with it until there is no more.  This step is critical so the crust will come out correctly and not be a sloppy mess.

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For crust, in a bowl stir together drained cauliflower and the next 6 ingredients, through salt.  On a piece of parchment paper, pat cauliflower mixture into a 12-inch circle.  See photos.  Transfer crust on the parchment paper to the preheated pizza stone or baking sheet.  Bake 12 – 15 minutes or until crisp and starting to brown.

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Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook and stir the mushrooms and pepper in hot oil 4 – 6 minutes or until crisp tender.  Remove from heat.

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Spread pizza sauce over baked crust.  Top with shredded mozzarella and cooked veggies.  Bake about 5 minutes more or until heated and cheese is nicely melted.  If desired, sprinkle with fresh herbs.  Cut into slices.  Serve with a side of pasta and/or a green salad if desired.



Cheese only option!




Portobello Goat Cheese Pitas with Chili Aioli
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Portobello Goat Cheese Pitas with Chili Aioli


Serves 6 (1 pita each)


1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
3 cups mixed baby greens or arugula
6 large portobello mushrooms
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
IMG_74171/4 tsp black pepper
6 – 6 inch pita flatbread rounds, warmed (or if desired, you can use pita pockets instead of the pita flatbread.  Fill pockets with aioli, greens, mushrooms, and goat cheese.)
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (simple swap: for a cheese variation, sprinkle with blue cheese or shredded smoked mozzarella.)


  1. For aioli, in a bowl stit together mayo and chili powder.  In another bowl whisk together the 1 Tbsp olive oil and the vinegar.  Add greens; toss to coat.
  2. Remove and discard stems from mushrooms.  Slice mushroom caps into 1/2 inch thick slices.  In a large skillet heat the 2 IMG_7414tsp olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes or until tender and golden on edges, stirring occasionally.


Spread aioli on pita bread rounds.  Top with greens and mushrooms.  Sprinkle evenly with cheese.  Fold pita rounds over for sandwiches or eat open faced.  Serve with veggie sticks and ranch for dipping if desired.



Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos
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Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos

~From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman.

Yield:  16 tacos


3 lbs (1 large or 2 small) spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 lime)IMG_5853
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
16 6-inch corn tortillas
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained well
4 ounces crumbled queso fresco, feta, or cojita cheese
1/4 cup finely diced red or white onion
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges and/or hot sauce for finishing, optional
1 Pineapple (served as a side)



Cook the squash.  This can be done 1 of 2 ways.  My preferred method is to roast in the oven, but the squash can also be cooked in the microwave.

Microwave:  Pierce squash all over with a small sharp knife about 1 inch deep to prevent from bursting.  Cook at high power for IMG_5881 6 – 7 minutes.  Turn squash over and microwave it until it feels slightly soft when pressed, about 8 – 10 minutes more.  Cool for 5 minutes.

Roast:  Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and roast the halves facedown in an oiled baking pan for about 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

IMG_5884When squash has finished cooking and cooled slightly, working over a bowl, scrape the squash flesh with a fork, loosening and separating the strands as you remove it from the skin.  Discard the skin.  IN a small dish, whisk the lime juice with the chili powder, cumin, coriander,IMG_5858 and salt.  Pour over the squash strands and gently stir together.  Taste adjust seasonings as you wish.


Assemble the tacos:



IMG_5883 2Heat a dry, heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Warm and slightly blister each tortilla, about 30 seconds per side.  Transfer with tongs to a platter and sprinkle each with 2 Tbsp of black beans, ( I heat mine in the microwave first ) 2 Tbsp of spiced squash mixture, a spoonful of the crumbled cheese, and a couple of pinches of onion and cilantro.  Serve with lime wedges and hot sauce if desired.  Cut the pineapple into chunks and serve with tacos.

Note:  These are absolutely delicious.  We loved them!  For my family I omit the onions and cilantro because my kids are not fans of either.  You may do the same or keep the recipe as is and enjoy.


Creamy Tomato & White Bean Soup with Grilled Cheese Dippers
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Creamy Tomato & White Bean Soup

with grilled cheese dippers

Recipe by Tara Bench for Family Fun Magazine, Feb/Mar 2016 issue


This soup is EASY & this soup is GOOD!

Serves:  8  ( great for leftovers the next day!)


1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 can or carton (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch black pepper
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained
1 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
4 – 8 slices of bread (will vary depending on how many people you’re serving so as to make enough grilled cheese for your group)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese ( may need more to accommodate # of sandwiches you’re making)

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1.Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until soft, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

2.  Working in batches, transfer tomato mixture to a blender.  Add beans and broth.  Blend for 2 minutes.  Return to saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Cover slices of bread with cheese.  Top with remaining bread slices, then butter the outsides.  Grill in skillet until golden on both sides and cheese is melted.  Cut into 1 inch slices.

4.  Serve soup with grilled cheese dippers.



Butternut-Apple Soup

Adapted from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, by the Editors of Good Housekeeping Magazine.  Print This Post Print This Post

Butternut-Apple Soup

IMG_5758Prep:  15 minutes  Cook:  45 minutes ~ Very easy recipe


2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4 inch pieces ***Instead of cutting the squash into pieces when it is raw as that is quite a challenge, I cut each squash just in 1/2, rub the inside and out with some olive oil and roast cut side down on a tinfoil or parchment lined baking sheet at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Once cooled I can easily cut/peel off the skin and cut the soft squash into pieces.  It is going to be cooked and put in a blender eventually so you don’t need it to have any form.  This makes the preparation of the squash much easier***

2 medium gala apples (or really whatever apples you have on hand is fine) peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped

1 carton, 48 ounces vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp coarsely ground black pepper


In large dutch oven, combine squash, apples, broth, water, salt and pepper;  heat to a boiling over high heat.  Reduce heat to IMG_5772low;  cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

Spoon 1/3 of squash mixture in a blender;  cover, with center part of cover removed to let steam escape, and puree until smooth.  You may place a kitchen towel over opening in cover when first starting blender to avoid any hot liquid splashing out.  Pour blended soup into a bowl and continue with remaining mixture until all has been blended.

Return puree to saucepan;  Heat through over medium heat, stirring occasionally (do not boil).  Serve.

Soup pairs wonderfully with the Waffle Iron Turkey Melt Panini, recipe derived from Cooking Light Magazine, April 2016 edition.


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