Queso Mac and Cheese

My husband came across an ad for Frank’s Red Hot® Queso Dip Seasoning, and he was wicked interested, so…

we checked out our main market and… nothing.

Then we checked out our also kinda main, but back-up market and, again… nothing.

Enter Amazon, and, a six pack of mix and a day or so later, we were well supplied and ready to go a-queso-ing.

Or, whatever.

Thing is, we were not, currently, in the mood for queso dip, so I went to Frank’s web site in search of recipe ideas.

Bingo! Buffalo Chick Man and Cheese!

Except… I had other plans for chicken and a pound of pizza-spiced bulk sausage in the freezer that  I was wanting to use, so…

Queso Mac and Cheese! With Sausage!

•Olive oil
•2 cloves garlic
•1 cup shredded cabbage
•1 cup diced onion
•1 lb bulk Italian sausage
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste

•8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked and drained

Cheese Sauce:
•1/4 cup butter
•1/3 cup flour
•1 pkg Frank’s® Queso Seasoning
•3 cups warm milk
•8 oz shredded cheese

•2/3 cup bread crumbs
•2 tbsp melted butter

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Heat your oven to 400º and apply cooking spray to a 13×9 inch casserole.

Warm the oil in a large pan over medium high heat, then add the garlic, shredded cabbage, and onion and cook for about five minutes, until the onion and cabbage are just beginning to get tender.

Add the sausage and continue to cook, breaking the sausage up, for another ten minutes or so, until the sausage is cooked through. Stir in the Sherry Peppers Sauce and the hot sauce and continue to cook, stirring often, until and pan liquids are mostly reduced.

Transfer to a colander to drain.

Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in the same pan, then whisk in the flour and the queso mix.

Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute, then, set the heat to low and gradually whisk in the warmed milk.

Note: to warm the milk, place into a ‘wave-safe container, add a wooden chop stick (to keep the milk for super heating), and ‘wave for one minute.

Add the cheese (I used Colbyjack) and continue to stir until it has melted and you have a nice queso cheese sauce.

Stir in the cooked macaroni and drained sausage, then transfer to your prepped casserole.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the melted butter, then scatter evenly over the top of the casserole.

Bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the cheese sauce is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.

We went with a dollop of sour cream on top, but a bit of ranch dressing might could work a treat as well.

A very nice mac and cheese.

So very nice, in fact, that next time I might just stick (more or less) to Frank’s recipe and use chicken!

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Pandemic Potato Salad

No, you are not gonna get sick from eating this riff on German potato salad; the pandemic part comes from they type of potatoes I used.

Canned potatoes. Canned sliced potatoes at that. I figured if I was gonna be using canned potatoes for anything, I may as well have them pre-sliced.

So, how, exactly, did I come to have a couple of cans of (sliced) potatoes stashed in a corner of my pantry?

Well, at the beginning of this whole Shelter-in-Place thing, just after bathroom tissue become a black market commodity, I was in the produce section of my market and, the potatoes were gone.

No baking potatoes. No sweet potatoes. No bags of tiny new or fingerling potatoes.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.


I did come across some canned potatoes in another aisle and thought: “well, how bad can they be?”

And you know what? They aren’t bad at all!

•2 cans sliced white potatoes,
drained and rinsed well
•1 cup diced sweet onion
•1 cup diced celery
•3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
•2 tbsp sliced olives (optional)
•2 hard cooked eggs, sliced
•1 tsp chopped parsley
•1 tsp chopped chives

•1/2 cup salad vinegar
•1/2 cup mayonnaise
•2 tbsp sugar
•1/2 tsp paprika
•1/2 tsp dry mustard
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (optional)

Whisk the dressing ingredients together until nicely blended, then pour over the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat well.

Serve immediately, at room temperature, or stash in the fridge to allow the flavors to develop a bit.

This recipe is totally a riff on German potato salad, so the dressing will be a bit thin; but it all worked well with grilled sticky ribs.


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Horseradish and Sriracha Aioli

One of my all time favorite versions of aioli, or, ‘garlic mayonnaise,’ this tasty spread comes together in next to no time with the use of a blender or mini food processor.

Yeh. You could make this the traditional way and whisk it all together in a mixing bowl, but, I have the technology, and really see no point in not using it.

Note: for those with raw egg issues, check out this No-Egg Mayonnaise recipe, and just add the Sriracha and horseradish.

•2 egg yolks
•1 tbsp lemon juice
•1 tsp sugar
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp dry mustard
•1/4 tsp white pepper
•2 tbsp prepared horseradish
•3 garlic cloves, minced
•1 tsp Sriracha
•1/2 cup peanut oil
•1/2 cup veggie oil

Add all of the ingredients, except for the oils, to the bowl of a mini food processor or a blender jar and pulse until nicely combined.

Note: using a processor or blender means you can skip mincing the garlic, so, bonus!

Combine the oils in a beaker and, with the processor or blender running, slowly drizzle into the egg and garlic mixture – my Cuisinart mini processor has this cool feature built into the lid that makes drizzling in the oil idiot proof, which helps me a lot on some days.

Stop the processor or blender once all of the oil has been absorbed and your Aioli nicely emulsified.

Thick, creamy, and oh! so very tasty, this may very well be the mayonnaise you’ve been looking for.

Transfer to a covered container and store in the fridge for up to a week.

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Sloppy Joes With a Difference

The nice folk at Southern Living shared a recipe for Sloppy Joes made with Dr Pepper and peperoncini (!) – and so, of course, I had to try it.

With a few tweaks here and there.

I also opted to use my Sloppy Joes as a pizza topping instead of a sammich and, I have to say, this, my friends, is a winner:

A little bit sweet, a little bit zippy, and all around tasty!

•2 tbsp olive oil
•2 cloves garlic
•1 cup diced sweet onion
•1 cup diced celery
•1/2 tsp dried oregano
•1-1/2 lb meatloaf mix (gr beef & gr pork)
•1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
•1 (7.5 oz) can Dr Pepper
•1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1/2 cup sliced peperoncini
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1 tbsp brown sugar
•1/4 cup ketchup
•1 bay leaf

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Add the onion, garlic, and celery to the oil on a large pan and cook for ten minutes or so over medium high heat.

Add the meat – feel free to use all ground beef, or even ground turkey or chicken – and cook, breaking the meat up, until browned and most of the pan juices have cooked off.

Stir in the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes, until the sauce is nicely reduced.

Your sloppy joes are ready.

Go ahead and serve on rolls, mebbe with coleslaw on top, or…

turn your sloppy joes into a Sloppy Joe Pizza – topped with Colbyjack and Provolone cheese, and then topped with shredded lettuce after baking.

Note: I have been using these thin pizza crusts found with the pizza sauce and Boboli in the market, but go ahead and use your own dough of choice, home made or store bought, it is all good. I mean, it must be, it’s pizza, after all!

No matter what dough or crust I am using, or what type of pizza I am making, I like to brush a bit of aioli on the dough before topping. If mayonnaise is not your thing, brush a little olive oil on instead.

Heat your oven according to the instructions for whichever pizza dough you are using; my crust called for 400º.

Top your crust with the sloppy joe mixture – you will more than likely have extra, which is not really a bad thing – and then with sliced Colbyjack and Provolone cheeses.

Pop into the oven and bake until the crust is browned and the cheese all ooey-gooey and melty – for this crust at 400º it took about ten minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before cutting and serving.

I topped ours with shredded lettuce, and then drizzled a bit of ranch dressing over the top for sloppy joe pizza perfection.


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Creamy Guacamole

I came across an advertisement for “creamy guacamole” which looked to be almost a salad dressing and, I was intrigued. It reminded me of a sauce that I rather liked a long time ago – mebbe when I was living in California? Who knows?

Anyway, I went in search of a recipe. On mayonnaise web sites. On recipe boards. Most everywhere. But… nothing that looked like the spread in the ad, or the spread/sauce I recalled from long ago and far away; so, I went to work…

This is actually very good, and even close to what I was recalling, but perhaps not quite as ‘sauce-like.” If you would like yours a bit looser and creamier, try blending a bit more mayonnaise, or buttermilk until you have a guacamole or salad dressing consistency that you prefer.

•1 avocado, peeled and chopped
•1 tbsp lime juice
•1/4 cup mayonnaise
•1/4 fresh jalapeño, seeded and chopped
•2 tbsp diced red onion
•1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
•1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
•1/4 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Aleppo Pepper

Note: I don’t really care for cilantro, hence the parsley. If you like that flavor, feel free to swap out fresh cilantro for the parsley.

Add all of the ingredients to a blender jar or food processor – my immersion blender worked a treat – and pulse until blended, creamy, and smooth. Again, if you would prefer a thinner consistency, go ahead and add more mayonnaise or some buttermilk – mebbe a tablespoon at a time – until you are happy with the result.

Stash in a covered jar in the fridge for up to four days.

Try it on tacos, as a jazzed up spread for your avocado toast or sammiches, or, of course, burgers.

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Mrs Maisel’s Brisket

So, first things first:

Full disclosure: I could not find a brisket at my market, and the social distanced line to talk to one of our very nice butchers was longer than I cared to deal with at the time, so I opted to use a top round roast, because they had one right there, all wrapped and ready to go, in the meat case.

Was it as good as a brisket would’ve been? I doubt it, but it was still wicked good, and now I am on the hunt for a good brisket.

All that said, I kept to the recipe pretty faithfully (well, for me), though, aside from changing out the cut of beef, I also cut back on the size. Two of us did not need a six pound chunk of anything for dinner, and three pounds was more than adequate, with leftovers, so, bonus!

•12 oz chili sauce
•2 cans cranberry sauce
•12 oz beer
•3 tbsp cider vinegar
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*

•2 tbsp olive oil
•6 lb beef brisket
– I used a 3lb top round roast
•1 large sweet onion, sliced
•12 cloves garlic, minced
Seasoned Salt
•Black pepper
Aleppo pepper (optional)
•Brown sugar

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Note: for optimal results, you are supposed to make the brisket one day, then cool and stash in the fridge before reheating in the sauce the next day and serving.

Stir the sauce ingredients together until well combined – an immersion blender works a treat here – and set aside.

Line a roasting pan in foil – leaving enough around the sides to pull over and cover the beef – and heat your oven to 375º.

Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic, tossing to coat in the oil. Cook for about ten minutes, until the onion is tender, then transfer to the foil lined roasting pan.

Season all sides of the beef with the salt, black, and Aleppo pepper, if you are using, then brown all sides in the pan, adding additional olive oil if needed.

Place the beef on top of the onion and garlic in the foil-lined pan, then pour some of the sauce over – I added enough to cover the beef about half way up the sides. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the top of of the roast, pull the foil up and over the beef and seal, leaving a pocket for steam.

Note: transfer any leftover sauce to a covered container and stash in the fridge until needed.

Bake for 3-1/2 hours (for a six pound brisket, I did about two hours for my three pound top round), then remove from the oven, set aside to cool, then put in the fridge until dinner the next night.

The next day, slice the beef, then pour the  sauce and onion from the baking pan over the top and bake at 350º until heated through.


Note: I also did the second bake in a foil lined pan because, why should I deal with that mess?

You do what you like.

As I noted, not a brisket, but very, very good.

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Spinach, ‘Shroom, and Swiss Quiche, With Ham!

It was a good day to make a quiche; not the least of which because I had a box of pie crust in the fridge downstairs that was not getting any fresher. Now, you can go ahead and make your own pie crust – I have a fair number of recipes on this blog – but my sister introduced me to the joy of having a pretty darned decent pie crust on hand fresh from the market.

Tasty, flaky, and the biggest fuss is letting it rest on the counter for 15 minutes before unrolling it and getting on to the good stuff.

I like that in a pie crust!

The original recipe, from the nice folk at Cooking Light, did include a pie crust recipe which, I just told you, I ignored, but…

They also took a different kinda step in quiche preparation by pre-baking the pie crust a wee, tiny bit before filling and finishing the whole thing; which I did, and, I am here to tell you, I am a believer!

•1 pie crust – store bought or home made
•Bacon fat
•1/2 cup chopped ham
•1/4 cup chopped shallots
•1 (8 oz) package sliced ‘shrooms
•1/2 tsp dried thyme
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•2 cups packed baby spinach
•1 cup milk
•1/3 cup half-and-half
•3 large eggs
•1 large egg white
•1 tbsp Mustard Barbecue Sauce
– or Dijon mustard
•1/2 tsp salt
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Fit your pie crust into your chosen pie or quiche pan, then line it with foil and arrange pie weights (or uncooked dried beans) across the pan, bake for 12 minutes, then remove the foil and the weights (or beans) and bake for another two minutes.

Remove from the oven, set aside to cool, then reset your oven to 350º.

Melt one tablespoon of bacon fat (or olive oil or butter, but bacon fat is better) in a large pan over medium high heat, then add the ham and sauté for five minutes or so, until the edges are just a bit charred. Remove from the pan and keep handy.

Add another tablespoon of bacon fat to the pan, if needed, and add the shallots, sliced ‘shrooms, and thyme.

Cook, stirring often for ten minutes, then stir in the Sherry Peppers Sauce.

Add the baby spinach, toss to mix well, and cook for two minutes, just until the spinach is wilted.

In a blender jar, combine the milk, half and half, eggs and egg white, mustard, salt, and the black and Aleppo peppers and pulse until blended and smooth.

Note: an immersion blender and a large beaker works a treat, too.

Scatter the ham over the crust, then top with the ‘shroom and spinach mixture.

Scatter half of the cheese over the top, then pour the egg mixture evenly over all.

Note: I was using a pretty standard (I thought) pie/quiche plate, but ended up with more of the egg mixture than would fit in the pan, so I chucked the excess – about 1/2 cup or so, so it wasn’t a huge deal.

Finally, scatter the remaining cheese over the top of the quiche and pop into the oven for 45 minutes, or until the filling is set.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for ten minutes before slicing and serving.

Note: serving the quiche fresh, even after letting it rest for ten minutes, could give you slightly messy, but still totally delicious, slices. If you really need it to look perfect, make the quiche well ahead, cool completely, then slice and gently reheat.

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Strawberry Lemonade Blondies

My husband came across this recipe from 12tomatoes.com, who adapted it from The View From Great Island, and, since he does love him a citrus-y treat, asked me to make a batch to try and mebbe share with friends (not to worry, social distancing all the way, I dropped a container of goodies on their doorstep and was off down the street).

I am not gonna lie – the half pound of butter called for gave me pause, but in the end, we got a pretty stellar treat, and I can see making these again and again.

•1 cup unsalted butter, softened
•3/4 cup sugar
•1 egg
•1/4 cup lemon juice
•2-1/4 cups flour
•1/2 tsp baking powder
•1/2 tsp salt
•1 cup diced fresh strawberries

•1 cup confectioners’ sugar
•1 tbsp strawberry purée
•1 tbsp lemon juice (enough to thin the glaze to spreadable consistency)

Note: I ended up using two tablespoons each of strawberry puree and lemon juice to make my glaze spreadable.

Heat your oven to 350º and line an eight or nine inch square baking pan with parchment paper – leaving a couple of inches hanging over each end.

Whisk the flour together with the baking powder and the salt in a bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter together with the sugar until fluffy, then beat in the egg and lemon juice.

Stir in the flour mixture until you have a thick dough, then fold in the diced strawberries.

Spread the batter evenly over the parchment paper lined baking pan, then pop into the hot oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer to a rack to cool.

To make the strawberry purée, toss a couple of strawberries into the beaker of an immersion blender and give ’em a good whizzz. No immersion blender? A regular blender or mini food processor will work as well.

Pour the purée through a fine meshed strainer. If you like, go ahead and freeze any pulp from the strainer in an ice cube tray t add to lemonade.

To make the glaze, whisk the strawberry purée and the lemon juice into the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. As I noted above, it took my two tablespoons each of purée and lemon juice to make my glaze.

Spread the glaze evenly over the cooled blondies, then set aside to rest.

When ready to serve, use the overhanging parchment paper to lift the glazed blondies out of the baking pan and cut into bars.

I ended up with 16, two inch square bars – more than big enough because they really are wicked rich (that half pound of Irish butter and all).

Next time, for festivities’ sake, I might dust the fresh glaze with sprinkles.

Just a thought.

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A Better Burger

I actually have this filed as ‘Best! Burgers’ – and the recipe is based on Craig Claiborne’s ‘Ultimate Burger’ recipe – but calling something ‘Ultimate’ or ‘Best’ tends to set off some folk, so…

Surely ‘Better’ is a nice name, no?

I prefer a mixture of ground beef and ground pork – our markets call it meatloaf mix – but feel free to use all beef, or mebbe toss some ground lamb into the mix for a little sumpin’ sumpin’ extra.

•1 lb meatloaf mix – or ground beef
•1/8 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp dried parsley
•1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1 tsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*

•2 tbsp butter
•1 whole sweet onion, sliced
Arby’s Sauce (or barbecue sauce)

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

For the burgers, whisk the salt, pepper, parsley, Worcestershire, Sherry Peppers, and hot sauces together in a bowl, then add the ground meat and mix well.

Form into burgers and grill or fry in butter as you prefer.

White your burgers are grilling or cooking, melt the butter in a large pan, then add the sliced onion, tossing to coat.

Cook over medium high heat for about five minutes, until the onion is tender, then stir in Arby’s Sauce (or barbecue sauce) – mebbe 1/2 cup or so – and toss to coat.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the sauce has reduced and the onion is well and truly coated with sauce.

Assemble your burger.

We grilled, then added some cheese to ours and served them on lightly toasted buns slathered with Aioli, and topped with the onion, sliced pickles, and a dab o’ Zippy & Sweet Mustard.

It really is a better burger!

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Parfait! Tres Leches Lemon Cake

This riff on the classic (and wicked fine) tres leches cake calls for sour cream in place of the more usual milk as part of the “three milks,” but, not to worry, this version, also, is wicked fine.

And, if anyone should care be persnickety enough to quibble that, without the milk, it no longer counts as tres leches, may I remind them to chill the heck out; and, since I went with a cream cheese frosting, I can. I believe, successfully argue that sour cream in the cake and cream cheese on top, more

than makes up for the lack of milk.

Also, too; cuatro leches just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

So there.

•1 white or yellow cake mix
•1-1/4 cup water
•1/3 cup veggie oil
•3 eggs
•1 (3 oz) pkg lemon Jell-o

Tres Leches:
•1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
•1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
•1/2 cup sour cream

•1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
•2 tbsp lemon juice
•1/2 tsp vanilla
•1/8 tsp salt
•1/8 tsp black pepper (trust me)
•3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Heat your oven to 350º and apply cooking spray to a 13×9 baking pan.

Combine the water, veggie oil, and cake mix in a large bowl and mix on medium speed for three minutes.

Stir the jello powder into the batter until blended, then bake in the hot oven for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Set aside to cool completely on a rack.

Once the cake has cooled, whisk the sweetened condensed and evaporated milks with the sour cream until blended.

Using a large fork, pierce the cake all over at 1/4 inch intervals.

Note: a meat carving fork works a treat.

Pour the tres leches mixture evenly over the cake, then cover and stash in the fridge for at least one hour to allow the cake to absorb all that milky liquid.

Beat the softened cream cheese together with the lemon juice, vanilla, salt, and (again, trust me) black pepper.

Note: I learned from a chef I met that just a bit of black pepper added to most anything sweet helps to round out the flavor, without making it taste at all peppery.

Beat the confectioners’ sugar into the cream cheese mixture one cup at a time until the frosting is as thick as you like.

If the frosting is a bit too thick, beat in milk or (at this point, why not go for it?) heavy cream one tablespoon at a time until the frosting is the consistency you prefer.

Frost the cake, cover, and stash in the fridge until ready to serve.

Note: this cake really does need to be kept in the fridge; all that dairy will spoil if you store it at room temperature.

You can serve the cake as is, but we really like ours topped with macerated strawberries*.

*Slice the strawberries and toss with one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of Cointreau or orange juice and let rest for ten minutes. Transfer the strawberries (and the liquid) to a bowl, cover, and stash in the fridge until needed.

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