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.

BBQ Chicken Chili

 My family loves chili…especially living in the midwest with our cold winter months.  I have my go-to chili recipe that I have been making for years and it’s great, but I was excited when I came across this recipe in Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant.  A different spin on the traditional chili recipes that we are used to and it was great!  Paired with corn bread muffins…this is some serious comfort food!  And the best part was I made it in the morning before leaving for work and left it warming in the crock pot all day so dinner was done when we walked in the door later that evening.

Serves 4 – 6


2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I put these in a steamer and cook while preparing the remainder of the dish…then just shred and add to the pot when called for)
1 – 12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 – 14 oz. can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
1 – 14 oz. can light or dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (Be aware of  the sweetness in the BBQ sauce you choose for this dish if you don’t want your chili extra sweet)
Freshly grated cheddar cheese, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Torn fresh cilantro, optional for garnish

*The original recipe calls for 1 red onion diced and 2 garlic cloves minced which would be added in step 1 w/ the jalapeño.  I omit these as my family doesn’t care for onions or garlic.


~Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Add the jalapeño and stir to coat.  Cook until it has softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the paprika, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, salt and red pepper flakes.  Stir to combine.

~Add the chicken, red peppers, beans, stock, tomatoes, and BBQ sauce and stir well to combine.  (You may add a cup or 2 of water at this point if chili needs to be thinned out a bit)  Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook the chili for 20 minutes.  Remove the lid and stir.  Taste and season w/ more salt, pepper or spice if you desire.  Cover and cook for 10 more minutes.

~Top each serving with cheddar cheese, sour cream and cilantro if using.  Great served with corn bread.

*When meal is cooked you may transfer to a crock pot on the keep warm or low setting and the chili will be ready to eat whenever you are.


Make your own Pizza Dough

Here is another favorite recipe of mine from Giada’s Happy Cooking.  I love making my own pizza dough.  I know dough can be intimidating to some people and it seems like it would be so time consuming, but this is really an easy recipe that only takes a few minutes to throw together.  While you do have to let the dough rise for at least an hour, the actual prep is pretty quick.  One of my teenage sons who is 17 said to me the other night after we had this for dinner, “This is the best pizza I’ve had in a really long time”.  That was a pretty huge compliment considering how often he eats pizza when he’s out and about.  It is also so much more economical and budget friendly considering it costs much less to make at home compared to  ordering out at $20 – $30 a pizza!  Top with your favorite sauce, cheese and any other pizza toppings you favor.  Give this a try…I bet you’ll be glad you did!




1 cup warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp honey
2 & 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp cornmeal

* I usually double the above ingredients for my family of 5 to make 2 large pizzas.


In a mixing bowl, combine the warm water, yeast and honey.  Stir to dissolve.  Allow mixture to sit for 3 minutes to make sure the yeast is alive.  It should foam and start to bubble a bit.

Place the flour and salt in a separate large mixing bowl.  Add the yeast mixture and stir to combine.  As it begins to thicken and come together, use your hands to form the mixture into a dough.  The dough should start to pull away from the sides, but still remain soft and slightly sticky.  Add an extra Tbsp of flour if needed.  Coat your hands in a bit of olive oil and form dough into a ball.  Place the dough in a bowl that is coated with olive oil.  Cover with a towel and allow to sit in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.  Kneed the dough on a floured work surface for several minutes.  The dough is now ready to use.  Roll out and top with your favorite pizza sauce and toppings.  I use about 1 Tbsp of cornmeal and spread it out on my baking sheet before placing the rolled out dough on it to prevent sticking.  Bake in a 375ºF preheated oven.  Bake times may vary depending on ovens, thickness of crust and toppings, usually anywhere from 12 – 2o minutes.

*You may use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook to mix the dough if you prefer.


Peanut Butter “Better” Brownies

Thank you, Giada De Laurentiis, for brownies I can feel GOOD about eating!  If my kids knew there was a can of black beans in this recipe they would FREAK!  Ssshhhh…don’t tell them, I know I never will!  Oh, and by the way, they ate the whole pan of them and thought they were awesome!  I have to admit, when I saw the ingredient list containing black beans I was a bit taken aback myself, but being a big fan of Giada’s recipes, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and went ahead and tried this.  Boy am I glad I did!  Not a lot of sugar, no flour, no butter, beans and oatmeal up the health quotient…you really need to give these babies a try!  Recipe from Giada’s Happy Cooking Cookbook.


Vegetable oil for coating pan
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed well and drained
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed so it is liquid
1 cup peanut butter chips


Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Coat an 8 x 8 inch pan with vegetable oil.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan.  The oil will help the parchment paper adhere to the pan.  Set aside.

In a food processor, place the black beans, cocoa powder, oats, salt, brown sugar, vanilla, baking powder, egg, and egg yolk.  Puree to combine.  With the motor running, drizzle int he coconut oil and puree until smooth, about 3o seconds.  Sprinkle 1/2 of the peanut butter chips on the bottom of prepared pan.  Spread the batter over the chips.  Sprinkle the remaining chips over the top.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or w/ just a few moist crumbs.  Do not overcook as the brownies will be dry.  If your oven tends to run hot, you may want to check a bit before the 20 minute mark.  Allow brownies to cool to room temperature.  Enjoy!!!

*Giada calls these Espresso-Peanut Butter “Better” Brownies and adds 1 Tbsp espresso powder to the food processor with the other ingredients.  We do not car for the expresso flavor so I omit this ingredient.



Parmesan Dutch Baby

Another great recipe from one of my favs, Food Network Magazine, April 2017 edition.  This is a fantastic side dish that is so easy to make!  It is like one giant pop-over that is great to be shared family style in the middle of the table.  This is GOOD!  Even though it may look tricky, it couldn’t be easier!  It is great with soups, salads, pastas, on its own, anytime you would serve dinner rolls, or even for breakfast w/ a little jelly or jam!  Try it…you’ll LOVE it!  I added a bit of grated Parmesan cheese to mine.  The original recipe from FN Mag made theirs with garlic and rosemary.  Really the possibilities are endless with what you could add to this and the flavors you could try here.  It is even fantastic plain, without any extras added in.


3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp butter
kosher salt


Preheat oven to 425 º F.  Whisk 3 eggs with the flour, milk, Parmesan cheese and 1 tsp kosher salt, (use 1/2 tsp if you like it less salty).  Let sit for 5 minutes.  In a large ovenproof nonstick skillet, I use my cast iron skillet here, melt the 3 Tbsp butter on the stove top until fully melted, but before starting to burn.  Remove from heat.  Add the batter, just pour over melted butter, no need to mix.  Bake at 425 º until puffed and golden around the edges, anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes as ovens vary.  Start checking after about 15 minutes.  You may sprinkle with salt after cooked if needed, but I find it is plenty salty with the salt previously added and the Parmesan cheese.  Serve and enjoy!

Slow-Cooker BBQ Chili with Corn Chips

This recipe, courtesy of Food Network Magazine, April 2017, is super!

Easy, kid friendly (what kid doesn’t like a meal topped with Fritos?!), delicious and the slow cooker does all the work!  Perfect for a busy day when you don’t have time to cook or if you’re working and want a scrumptious home cooked meal waiting for you and your family when you walk in the door.  So easy to prep quickly in the morning before you have to head out.  Let’s get to it!




2 lbs. cubed beef stew meat
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. ground cumin
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup chili sauce (such as Heinz)
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 16 oz. can chili beans – do not drain ( I used Pinto beans )
Corn chips, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and/or sliced scallions if desired, for topping


Toss the beef with the chili powder, brown sugar, paprika, cumin, 1/2 tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper in a 6 – 7 quart slow cooker.  Whisk the chili sauce with 1 Tbsp vinegar, the mustard and Worcestershire sauce;  add the the slow cooker along w/ the beans (do not drain). Cover and cook on low until the beef is tender, 7 – 8 hours.

Uncover and stir to combine; let sit, uncovered for 5 – 10 minutes.  Stir in the remaining 1 tsp vinegar.  Serve with the corn chips and desired toppings.