cook: spinach dip

Yesterday, the temperature in Boulder dropped from 85 to  55 in a matter of hours meaning that fall (and probably the first frost) is finally here.  For years I’ve been in denial about my favorite season.  I love the beach, long days, the leisure and the humidity (what? it’s good for my hair/skin) during the summer but deep down the fall is my favorite.  It makes me want to buy new pencils and roast something, since I can finally turn on the oven without also needing to crank the AC.  And one  of the best perks of the fall is football.  There’s something about spending an afternoon or evening or entire weekend watching games, rooting for your home team and eating delicious food.   With the weekend almost here,  I thought I would share one of my go-to recipes for parties.  I have been serving this  Spinach Dip for over a decade and I rarely tire of it.  In fact,  there was a time in my life where my mother and I would make it for dinner.  Yes, I love it that much.  It’s mayo free, doubles well and can be prepared in advance so all you have to do is throw it in the oven.

Spinach Dip
Adapted from Denver Junior League Colorado Creme de la Creme Cookbook

+ 1 T diced pickled jalapeños (I buy them canned in the Mexican Food section of my store)
+  2 fresh tomatoes seeded and chopped
+ 1 10z. packed of frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry
+ 8 oz. cream cheese
+ 2 c. shredded jack cheese
+ 1/3 milk or half and half (depending on what you have in the fridge)

Mix the ingredients together and pour into a 8×8 or 9×9 oven proof dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and browned at the edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes or until the first person starts to dig in.  I serve this with veggies  and tortilla chips. Enjoy!



cook: strawberry + ricotta bruschetta


We are well into the dog days of summer and the very last thing I feel like doing is slaving over a hot stove.  I’ve hit the part of the year where i tend to subside on iced coffee, grapes and popsicles.  It’s just too hot to eat anything else.  this past weekend, I was invited to a  friend’s house for dinner and a movie and knew that grapes and popsicles would not be appropriate tob ring with me.  So I began looking for something that I could make and transport and yet didn’t require me to turn on my stove.  In the end, I decided to throw together these delicious little summer snacks.  Fruit soaked in balsamic vinegar is one of my favorite flavor combinations and these did not disappoint — the key here is to use the best ingredients that you can afford and can get your hands on.

Here is what you’ll need:

+ crusty bread (i used a french small boule)

+ olive oil

+ balsamic vinegar

+ strawberries

+ fresh ricotta

+ basil

+ salt and pepper to taste

start by hulling and dicing your strawberries.  i used about a pint of them to make 1.5 cups of diced strawberries.  then combine with 2 T of balsamic and let sit for 20 minutes.  then slice and lightly toast your bread.    once toasted drizzle with olive oil.  then stir in about a tablespoon of olive oil into your ricotta.  spread a healthy spoonful onto each slice of bread.  top with a healthy spoonful of strawberries.  chiffonade or tear the basil and sprinkle on top and add salt and pepper to taste.

voila. an impressive, delicious and simple summer time treat. i loved them so much, i plan to make these daily for lunch!



cook: grilled corn + avocado + black bean salsa

Happy 4th of July!

If you are like me, you’re probably headed to some type of cookout/clambake/bar-b-que situation this afternoon.   I thought I would pass along my quick and easy recipe for salsa that I’ve recently been making.  Inspired by one found on Spoon Fork Bacon, this recipe has been adapted so that it uses almost everything it calls for.  With the exception of the red onion (because I think the flavor would be entirely overpowering), this recipe leaves no left over half cans of beans or fourth of a jalapeno.  I’ve also added avocado simply because I love it.  This is an easy one, full of flavor and the jalapeno packs a little bit of punch to every bite.  It can be served immediately but I like to let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving so that the flavors come together.

Here’s what you need:

+ 4 ears of corn, husks removed

+ 2 T olive oil

+ 1/2 red onion, diced

+ 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced

+ 3 cloves of garlic, minced

+ 2 almost ripe avocado, diced (i like them to still be a little firm so they don’t melt and turn this into a guacamole)

+ 4 roma tomatoes or 1 large hot house tomato, seeded and diced

+ 1 15.oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained

+ Juice of 3 Limes

+ Kosher Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper

Heat the grill to medium heat and close the lid.  Once you have husked the corn, using a pastry brush coat the outside of the ears with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and once the grill is hot, grill the ears until they begin to char.  Depending on your grill, this can take anywhere from 10 -20 minutes.  Don’t walk away.  Watch them so they don’t burn and turn them ever 2-3 minutes to insure they cook evenly.   Once cooked, remove from the grill and allow to cool to room temperature.  Sometimes, if I am in a rush, I put them in the fridge.

While the corn is cooling down, in a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients and toss together.  Then when the corn is cool, cut the kernels away from the ear and toss with the other ingredients.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Hope you have a great day filled with family, friends, fireworks and great food.



cook: bacon popsicles

This past weekend, I attended a bacon themed birthday party and if you follow us on Facebook, you saw a picture of my bacon popsicles as I was making them.  I call them popsicles because they are an equal parts savory and sweet and you eat your way through them in the same way you would bite a popsicle down the stick.  There are plenty of variations on these, this recipe is one of my dear friends and I’ve been using it at parties for the last five years or so, without fail, there are never any left.

Here’s what you will need:

+ 1 pound center cut bacon (get the best quality that you can afford)

+ 1 bag of prebaked breadsticks (found in the bakery department, like you would be served at an italian restaurant)

+ 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar

+ 3 T chili powder

Preheat your oven to 400° and line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper, then place a cooling rack inside of it.  Set aside.   In a bowl mix together the brown sugar and chili powder until the chili powder is evenly dispersed in the sugar.  Then place pieces of the bacon in the mixture and toss to coat.  Then taking one piece of bacon at a time, wrap the bacon around the breadstick and set on the cooling rack.  Repeat until you have used all the bacon.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until the outside of the bacon has started to caramelize.

Cool for about five minutes and serve.

Once baked, the brown sugar becomes almost like a candy coating and the chili powder adds a hint of kick to each bit.  You’re guests will thank you and beg for the recipe.




cook: chinese chicken salad

Guys, I love salads.  I feel like should be a line in the next Sh*t Girls Say, but it’s true.  I love them in a would be my last meal – have them at least once a day (sometimes twice) – dream about what I can put in them – like a guy loves sandwiches – kind of way.   I’m always looking for new ones to toss into my rotation (pun intended) so when I found this recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad on Design*Sponge and I knew I had to try it. I, of course, tweaked it based on what I had in my pantry/fridge and to meet my tastes. I have to say, this was AMAZING. The dressing really makes this salad, its so spicy and flavorful yet light.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Serves 2 (but could easily be halved for one)

What you’ll need:

+ 1 skinless boneless chicken breast

+ 1 heart of romaine lettuce

+ 2 cups spinach

+ 1 handful each of mint and cilantro

+ 2 celery stalks

+ 4 c. mixed vegetables (i blanched broccoli, green beans and sugar snap peas)

+ 1 c. bean sprouts

+ 2 green onions

+ 1 small red pepper

+ 1 small yellow pepper

+ 1/2 c. drained mandarin oranges (no sugar added)

+ 1/4 c. chopped roasted peanuts

+ 1/4 c. chopped roasted cashews

+ 1 T roasted sesame seeds (more if desired, give it a healthy tablespoon)

+ 1/2 jalapeno (seeded and chopped)

For the marinade

+ 2 T sesame oil

+ 1T chili powder

+ 1t ginger

+ 1t white pepper

+ 1t salt

+ 1T black pepper

For the dressing:

+  2 t grated fresh ginger or powdered ginger (I’ve made it with both and the grated fresh is great but the powdered works just fine too)

+  1 T Sriarcha chili sauce

+  2 T brown sugar

+  2 T rice wine vinegar

+  1 T soy sauce

+  1/8 tsp. sesame oil

+  3 T vegetable oil

+  1/2 jalapeno seeded and finely chopped

Start by marinating the chicken for at least an hour.  Grill or broil until it is cooked through, remove from the oven/grill, cover with tin foil and allow to rest while you put together the rest of the salad.

To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together, set aside.

Chop all ingredients and combine all the in a large bowl.  Cut or shred chicken and add.  Then using tongs, toss the salad with the dressing.  Serve and enjoy.



cook: Aunt Jean’s Tortilla Soup

Over the years I’ve come to realize I’m a fair weather cook. If it’s 90+ degrees outside (typical for Dallas) most evenings I find myself sipping margaritas with friends on a patio rather than cooking in the kitchen. However as the weather becomes cooler, I suddenly find myself in my kitchen more often than not. One of my favorite recipes to make when it’s cold and rainy outside is my Aunt’s famous tortilla soup. It’s become a winter staple and is a big hit with my friends. Please note you’ll need at least a 6 to 8 quartz pot as this recipe easily feeds 10 people.


1 large onion – chopped
2 4oz. cans of green chilies – chopped
6 cloves of garlic – crushed
3 tbl olive oil
4 medium tomatoes – seeded and chopped
2  32 fl oz cans Beef Broth
2 32 fl oz cans Chicken Broth
3 to 4 gluten free boullion cubes
4 cups of tomato juice (I prefer spicy bloody mary mix)
2 tsp of ground cumin
2 tsp fresh cilantro
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp of salt
1 tsp white pepper
4 tbl worcestershire sauce
4 tbl A-1 steak sauce
1 bag of tortilla chips
2 cups of Monterrey jack cheese – grated
2 lbs of  chicken – marinated overnight in Italian dressing, then cooked and cubed
1 bag of frozen shoe peg (white) corn
3 to 4 avocados – cubed

To start, place marinated chicken in the oven (preheated to 375) and bake for 30 minutes or until juices run clear. Then saute onions, chilies, garlic and olive oil until the onions are transparent. Add tomatoes, broth, tomato juice and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. By this time the chicken should be ready to take out of the oven. Add cubed meat and shoe peg corn. Simmer the soup for an additional 10 minutes.

Garnish each bowl with sliced avocados, crushed tortilla chips, pour soup in the bowl and then top with grated cheese.


cook: buffalo wing dip

It’s that time of year when football season is heating up and friends start getting together for the Sunday NFL games.   It’s also this time of year that I start to get requests for my wing dip recipe.  This dip takes one of the best parts of watching football — chicken wings — and puts them in dip form.   I wish that I could claim ownership over this one but like so many of my tailgating recipes, this one is courtesy of my friend Keri in Texas.

Here’s the recipe:

2-3 Chicken Breasts (or thighs if you like dark meat)

12 oz. bottle of Frank’s hot sauce (I tend to use the regular unless I know the crowd will like it extra spicy)

16 oz. bottle of Blue Cheese Salad Dressing (I use Ken’s Chunky)

8 oz. cream cheese

Shredded Cheese

Fritos Scoops

Carrots & Celery

Start by poaching the chicken breast in lightly salted water, then shred using two forks.  If I have any leftover chicken stock in my fridge, I will add it to the water for more flavor but its not necessary.  Once shredded, spread the chicken evenly in the bottom of an ovenproof dish and pour the Frank’s hot sauce over until just covered.  You want to make sure that every piece has Franks on and around it.  This should take about an entire bottle.

Then in a sauce pan melt the cream cheese over low to medium heat and stir constantly, you don’t want it to burn.  Once it is melted, add the blue cheese dressing and cook for a minute making sure to stir until combined.  Then pour over the chicken and spread as necessary so that the whole pan is covered.  Sprinkle top with cheese.

Then you throw it in the oven for 20 minutes or so until its all super hot.  I do it usually at 325 or 350 (temp doesn’t really matter since everything’s already cooked it just depends on how fast you want it to happen).  Remove from oven and serve immediately (it’s best when hot).  I put this out with Fritos Scoops Chips, carrot sticks and celery stalks.

Do you have any tailgating traditions or favorite recipes?

cook: adventures in stuffing part two


“dear stuffing bread, thank you for being born. i loved you since before i knew you and i know we will have a wonderful future together.”

that’s pretty much what when through my head when this bread came out of the oven. almost a year after i had started craving this and after a about of month of trying to make it happen, i finally had made stuffing bread.

the eureka moment happened rather quickly after i realized that the lack of flavor had a lot to do with my choice of fats and i decided it was time to pull out the big guns. big guns = jimmy dean breakfast sausage. it had amazing flavor, formed a perfect loaf and it sliced beautifully. honestly, this is the best stuffing i’ve ever had.

Stuffing Bread

(adapted from pepperidge farm)

4 c. pepperidge farm herb seasoned stuffing

1 c. low sodium chicken stock

1 egg

1/2 c. milk

3 T unsalted butter

1 c. chopped celery

1 c. chopped sweet onion

1 c. chopped mushrooms (button or crimini)

8 oz. jimmy dean breakfast sausage

preheat oven to 400

In a hot skillet, cook breakfast sausage be sure to break up the meat as it cooks. Once cooked through, remove sausage and place in a medium to large bowl. add butter to hot skillet. once melted, add celery, onion and mushroom to the pan and cook in the sausage fat and butter until onions are translucent. remove and add to the bowl with the sausage. add stuffing mix to the bowl with sausage and veggies. add the chicken stock to the hot skillet and bring to a boil. using a wooden spoon deglaze the pan (scrape all the bits off the edges and bottom of the pan). combine chicken stock with other ingredients and stir until liquid is distributed. in a bowl, stir together 1/2 c. milk and 1 whole egg until just mixed. combine with stuffing. line a loaf pan with parchment and press the stuffing into the pan.

bake loaf at 400 for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 375 for another 30 minutes. remove from oven, allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes and then move and place on rack to cool through. once cool, slice using a serrated knife. when you are ready to make your sandwich, take the slice bread and toast in a toaster oven until crusty. add turkey, cranberry, etc. build your dream sandwich.

when i told my brother in law about this, he suggested that i use this to make french toast. doesn’t that sound wonderful!

cook: adventures in stuffing part one

thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday — in large part because of stuffing the magical combination of savory spices, sausage and bread.  if i could get away with it, i swear my plate would be filled with just it, i would skip the turkey and the cranberry sauce, the mashed potatoes and maybe even the pumpkin pie for just one more bite of stuffing.

around this time last year, i got it in my head that instead of eating a leftover sandwich on boring old white bread, i wanted to eat it on bread made from stuffing.  yes you heard me.  bread.  from.  stuffing.  how great does that sound and why in gods name has pepperidge farm not created this already?

so this year around halloween, i set about trying to make this dream a reality.  after some blood (yes i cut myself), sweat and tears, i did it. tomorrow i’ll show you how.  today, here is a look at my failed attempts on the road to leftover sandwich glory:

in summary

attempts: 5

band-aids needed: approximately 3 (2 cuts, 1 required 2 band-aids)

pounds of stuffing: approximately 12

hours of my life: 8

hours gained back in satisfaction: 9

homemade stuffing

round one: homemade stuffing

confession: i’ve never actually made an entire thanksgiving dinner and honestly the closest i’ve come to making stuffing was a box of stovetop.  so this was an accomplishment to begin with but i kid you not, this had ZERO flavor.  i blame this on the turkey sausage i used in an attempt to be healthy.  the loaf fell apart into crumbs.  discouraged, i threw it away without snapping a photo and i took a week off from cooking entirely.  wasn’t off to the best start but i powered through.

cranberry sauce

round two — cranberry stuffing bread

i decided that i needed some “glue” and since sugar and eggs are often the best, i decided to test the two.  the first version involved melting down a can of cranberry sauce.   once i had a syrup, i mixed it in with the stuffing (full disclosure: still in shock from round one, i used stovetop for round two and three).  it tasted heavenly going into the oven, came out in a perfect loaf but tasted like cranberry and only cranberry.

cranberry stuffing bread + egg washed stuffing bread

round three —  egg washed stuffing bread

round three was made using an egg wash (one egg mixed with 1/2 c. water or milk).  i got cocky and thought for sure i had solved this since egg washes generally work well as glue.  it came out of the oven in a perfect loaf which sliced beautifully, still tasted like stuffing but it also now tasted a bit like egg. scrambled eggs and stuffing.  close but not quite.  next…

stuffing loaf

round four — stuffing loaf

i convinced myself that bread from stuffing was not actually possible and realized that what i really wanted was a bread that tasted like stuffing but it didn’t have to actually be MADE from stuffing.   so i made white bread dough, rolled it out, brushed it with melted butter and spread cooked onions, celery, mushrooms, sage, thyme and rosemary before rolling it into a loaf.  then i crossed my fingers and threw it in the oven.  as you can see in the picture above, the “stuffing” sank to the bottom(ah gravity!) it sliced well and had good flavor but you would never be able to eat a sandwich on this.  it was more like a stuffing calzone (which would have been great dipped in gravy. just sayin’)

so all in all, not a bad start.  the best part is that when i finally succeeded not only did i make stuffing bread, i discovered the recipe for the best stuffing i’ve ever had.  i’ll share this with you tomorrow.

what is your favorite part of thanksgiving and has anyone else every worked this hard on a side dish?