Chipotle Salsa

Chips and salsa are big in our house, so I’m always trying to come up with new versions. I made this salsa for the boys’ first night home from college – Mexican is always their favorite meal – and they all loved it! Of course with three college boys in the house, the whole batch of salsa, and the bag of chips, was gone by the next morning!


Chipotle Salsa
Author: 
Serves: 3 cups
 
Another reason I love this recipe? It's so quick and easy to make! The salsa would also make a delicious topping to grilled chicken, seafood or steak. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans of Diced tomatoes - I used one regular and one fire roasted
  • 1 tbsp Minced garlic
  • ½ - 1 tsp Chipotle powder (use ½ if you aren't sure how much heat you like)
  • 1-2 tbsp Cilantro, minced (optional)
Instructions
  1. Drain tomatoes of their liquid and place in a small bowl.
  2. Add the garlic, chipotle powder and cilantro if using and mix throughly.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour for the flavors to meld. You can make up to one day ahead, but if using cilantro, add before serving.
  4. Serve with chips.

 

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Zaxby’s Sauce

My five years in Brentwood, Tennessee were wonderful in countless ways…beautiful surroundings, a warm and close-knit community, incredible schools, wonderful people and Zaxby’s. I love Zaxby’s! I don’t eat fast food often, but Zaxby’s is one of my favorites. Every time we head to Charleston, Jeff knows that we have to swing by Zaxby’s on the drive from Charleston to Kiawah. What makes Zaxby’s my favorite is the sauce. It is sooooo good. Having a Zaxby’s craving? Try my version, it’s lightened up a bit, but totally delish!

Shown here with lots of veggies, I also always serve a basket of potato chips with this sauce

Zaxby's Sauce
Author: 
Serves: 1½ cups
 
I lightened this recipe up significantly but there's still mayo. If you want to cut out the mayo, simply replace the mayo with sour cream or increase the amount of whole milk yogurt. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt, whole milk
  • ½ cup Mayonnaise (I use Duke's)
  • ½ cup Ketchup
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl whisk together Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, ketchup, Kosher salt, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce.
  2. Serve right away or refrigerate up to 5 days.

 

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Romesco Sauce

A quick Romesco sauce makes the most delicious topping for steak, as well as grilled chicken, roasted shrimp or a appetizer plate. I love my version because you get to skip the roasting of the peppers and instead just crack open a jar. You definitely need a food processor to whip this sauce up, but it couldn’t be easier to pull together, and keeps great in the fridge for up to a week. Perfect for a Spanish-inspired dinner!


Romesco Sauce
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Serves: 2 cups
 
There are lots of Romesco recipes that call for red peppers and tomatoes...I developed this one to be simple and quick (hello jarred roasted red peppers) and add a little punch to lots of different meals. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup Olive oil
  • ½ cup Almonds, slivered
  • 3 tsp Garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp Paprika, smoked
  • 1 (16 oz) jar Roasted red peppers, drained
  • 2 tsp Sherry vinegar
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the almonds and cook, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes, or until golden.
  3. Add the garlic and smoked paprika and cook, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Transfer skillet ingredients to the food processor.
  5. Add the red peppers, vinegar and Kosher salt and blend until almost smooth.
  6. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.
  7. Serve right away or store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 

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Smoked Paprika Dip

In my on-going fascination with yogurt dips I came up with a delectable combination of smoked paprika and shallots. Jeff ranked this as one of his two favorite dips that I’ve created thus far. Not only is this dip perfect for your weekly veggie plate, it’s also yummy with chips, smothered on sandwiches and as a dipping sauce with grilled or roasted chicken.


Smoked Paprika Dip
Author: 
Serves: 1½ cups
 
When you cook with yogurt you do lose the thickness of the dip, but I figured out how to make sure you have a "dip-able" dip. All you have to do is make any yogurt dip one day ahead of when you want to serve it. Having that time in the fridge allows the dip to thicken naturally. You can easily whisk this dip in a bowl, but I love to simply throw everything in my food processor. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • ½ Shallot, large, minced (1 tbsp)
  • 1½ tsp Smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¾ cup Sour cream
  • ½ cup Yogurt, Greek whole milk
  • ¼ cup Mayonnaise (I prefer Duke's)
  • 1 tbsp Lemon juice
Instructions
  1. In a food processor mince half of a large shallot.
  2. Next add smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes and Kosher salt.
  3. Add sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise and lemon juice.
  4. Pulse until well combined.
  5. Transfer to a small container and refrigerate overnight.
  6. This dip will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days (if it lasts that long!)

 

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Cheese Wrapped Olives

If cheese straws and cocktail olives had a baby it would be this appetizer. While I can’t imagine piping out cheese straws, my very average baking skills are totally sufficient for wrapping olives in dough. Olive fans must try this recipe – a large pimento-stuffed olive wrapped in a cheesy, garlic-y dough – absolutely delicious and super-easy to make. It occurred to me the other afternoon as I was standing in the kitchen assembling these, that this is the perfect kind of cooking project to do with kids, a few more sets of hands would really speed this up…and when I make this appetizer for just Jeff and me, as I did the other night to watch the Oscars, I halve it, 20 olives are more than enough and give us some yummy leftovers for the next day.

Cheese Wrapped Olives
Author: 
Serves: approximately 40 olives
 
I love making this app because you can make it any time the day you are planning on serving and refrigerate them on a baking sheet covered with plastic wrap. Just be sure to let them rest on the counter to come back to room temperature, that way you won’t overcook them. One important tip I picked up through rounds of working on this recipe. It’s really important that the dough thinly wrap the olives. So, if it feels little thick, simply pinch off a bit of dough and keep rolling the olive in your hand. Your goal is an olive that is covered completely with the dough, but just barely. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • 1 (8 oz) page Cheddar cheese, sharp, shredded
  • 1 stick Butter, unsalted, softened
  • 1⅓ cup Flour, all-purpose
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1½ tsp Garlic powder
  • 1 (10 oz) jar Olives, pimento-stuffed, large
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor add cheese, butter, flour, Kosher salt and garlic powder. Process until the dough is well combined and has formed a ball (it will be sticky).
  3. Transfer dough to a small plate.
  4. Using your hands scoop off a 1 inch ball of dough and flatten in your hand. Place olive on the dough and begin to roll the olive around in your hand until completely covered with a thin coating of dough. If you grab too much dough simply pinch it off and continue rolling the olive.
  5. Place olives 2 inches apart on the sheet pans. Repeat until all olives are wrapped in dough.
  6. To cook - if cooking one tray at a time, bake for about 15 minutes.
  7. You can cook both trays at the same time if desired, simply rotate the tray positions halfway through the cooking time, that ensures even cooking. You will also increase the cooking time to 20 minutes total.

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Roasted Baby Potatoes with Bacon-Chive Topping

I often talk about my potato obsession, so these little loves are right up my alley. They are easy to prepare, can be assembled ahead of time, fit the one-bite cocktail app rule and they are delicious! I kept these simple with bacon and chives, but go crazy and change the flavor profile – how about feta, pine nuts and oregano? These potatoes were part of Jeff and my little Oscars viewing party and they were so good…I had the leftovers for lunch today!

Roast on a sheet of parchment, it really helps the potatoes crisp up

Roasted Baby Potatoes with Bacon-Chive Topping
Author: 
Serves: 30 appetizers
 
These are a great option for a do-ahead app. You can roast the potatoes a few hours ahead of your get-together and then simply top them before your guests arrive. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • 1 lb Baby potatoes (should be about 15 potatoes), sliced in half
  • ¼ cup Olive oil
  • 1½ tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • 2 slices Bacon, cooked and minced, reserve 1 tbsp
  • ½ cup Sour cream
  • 1 tsp Roasted garlic powder (you can also use regular)
  • 1 tbsp Chives, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Make sure each potato half can sit evenly, if they wobble cut a thin slice off the bottom of the half to make them stable.
  3. In a small bowl toss the potatoes with olive oil and 1 tsp Kosher salt. Place on a parchment or foil-lined sheet pan. Make sure the potato top (where you will place the topping) is face down for the best browning.
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the sheet pan to a paper-toweled lined plate to cool.
  5. In a small bowl mix sour cream, the minced bacon minus the 1 tbsp reserved bacon, ½ tsp Kosher salt and garlic powder.
  6. Once the potatoes have cooled to room temperature (you don't want to melt the topping so the potatoes must be cooled), top them with a dollop of the sour cream-bacon mixture. Sprinkle with the reserved minced bacon and the chives.
  7. To make ahead - the potatoes can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 hours and the sour cream mixture can be make up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated (let sit on the counter for 1 hour before using to take the chill off).

 

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Blue Cheese Dip

Whole milk Greek yogurt is my secret ingredient to create healthy and delicious dips. Once you see how easy it is to whip up a quick dip, I hope you will be inspired to keep a veggie tray in your fridge – you’ll have a nutritious snack to enjoy anytime. My children are the kid-exception…they are not dippers, so they can tear through a veggie plate with the best of them, but they leave the dip for the adults. I love having Jeff try one of my dips and after he tells me how yummy it is, I can reveal that it’s actually good for him!

Celery and a bit of red onion give this dip great flavor and texture

Blue Cheese Dip
Author: 
Serves: 4 cups
 
This dip has blue cheese, but you could make a dip with just the whole milk Greek yogurt and the sour cream and it would be equally as delicious. You can even omit the celery and red onion and have a creamy instead of chunky texture. You can make this dip in a bowl with a whisk, but I don't enjoy lots of chopping, so I do the whole thing in the food processor. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • I cup Greek yogurt, whole milk
  • 1 cup Sour cream
  • 1 cup Blue cheese, divided in half
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Red onion, minced
  • 1 cup Celery, minced
Instructions
  1. Put Greek yogurt, the sour cream, ½ cup blue cheese and the Kosher salt in the food processor, pulse until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a small bowl.
  3. Put the red onion and celery in the food processor and pulse a few times, until the texture is a fine mince. Add to the bowl.
  4. Add the second ½ cup of blue cheese to the bowl and mix all ingredients well.
  5. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 5 days.

 

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Homemade Tortilla Chips and the Best Ever Nachos

Jeff and I had so much fun working on this recipe together. I finally figured out the perfect kind of cooking for us to do together – any tasks that have a high rate of repetition and precision – he excels with that type of stuff! We got off to a rough start because I had meant to buy corn tortillas for the nachos, but out of habit picked up flour tortillas. But my sweetie came to the rescue by putting a tiny slit in each tortilla wedge, that one step means your chip doesn’t puff up too much. We made these for Super Bowl, and oh my goodness…with Spicy Honey Pulled Pork…Jeff declared these were the BEST nachos he’d ever had!

By the way, we made these nachos with a container of pulled pork I had stashed in the freezer. When you are making those long-cooking main dishes, I encourage you to set some aside for the freezer. Right now in my freezer you would find a couple of kinds of pulled pork, chili and brisket…any of those would be delicious on chips. Just think, if you have some yummy main dishes in the freezer, you are just a quick microwave defrost away from nachos!

Fried chips ready for toppings
Spicy Honey Pulled Pork, Black Beans, Shredded Cheddar Cheese and Jalapeno – Nacho Heaven!

These nachos would be amazing with even just some shredded cheese, but I would love for you to try them with my Spicy Honey Pulled Pork!

Spicy Honey Pulled Pork


Homemade Tortilla Chips and the Best Ever Nachos
Author: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Making these chips with flour tortillas was a happy accident for us, but we are more likely to have flour tortillas around anyway. If you want to make these chips with corn tortillas, the only change will be that you do not need to make a slit in each tortilla wedge. I encourage you to go crazy with the endless variations...pulled pork, shredded beef, ground beef, pulled chicken...the list of delicious toppings goes on and on. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • Deep fry or candy thermometer
  • Peanut oil (amount you use will depend on the size of your pan)
  • 8 (10 inch) Flour tortillas, sliced into 6 wedges each, a small inch wide slit in each wedge
  • Kosher salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Topping Options: pork, beef, or chicken; black, pinto or refried beans (warm all protein and beans), shredded cheese; jalapeno, sour cream, guacamole, salsa
Instructions
  1. Clip thermometer to the side of a large flat-sided skillet or Dutch oven. Heat 3 inches of peanut oil, the oil needs to be heated to 350 degrees. Over medium high heat, it will take 8-10 minutes to heat.
  2. Drop 4-6 tortillas into the hot oil, turning once with a slotted spoon. The tortilla chips will turn golden brown in 3-4 minutes.
  3. Remove each tortilla chip to a paper-towel lines sheet pan to drain any oil.
  4. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, garlic powder and cumin to taste.
  5. Serve right away or store at room temperature in a closed container for up to 5 days.
  6. If you are making nachos: preheat the oven to 350 and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Spray with canola spray (so the nachos won't stick) and place chips on the sheet pan. Top with warmed protein and beans, then cheese. Cook in the oven until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Finish with jalapeno, sour cream, guacamole and/or salsa if desired.

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Radish Dip

This dip is currently taking a spin in the fridge on my family’s veggie plate and it’s a big hit! Not only is this healthy dip a great choice as a veggie dipper, it’s also a terrific party appetizer. I developed this recipe after seeing radish butter in one of my favorite Southern cookbooks, The Lee Brothers’ Simple Fresh Southern. This recipe takes that idea and gives radishes the starring role in a creamy yogurt dip. I know not everyone likes radishes, but please give this a try. The radishes give the dip body and texture, but fresh dill is the predominant taste. While I love to serve this dip with a Southern-themed dinner, it would also be right at home as part of a holiday appetizer spread.


Radish Dip
Author: 
Serves: 1½ cups
 
The first few times I made this dip I did not squeeze the water from the radishes. While it is faster to make that way, I now do take an extra minute to wring out the extra moisture and it really does make your dip less watery and more creamy - especially important if you are making the dip a day or two ahead of time. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch Radishes, minced, trimmed of stems (approximately 1 cup)
  • ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup Sour cream
  • 2 tbsp Dill, minced
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Put radishes in a food processor and pulse about 3 times - you want the radish finely chopped but not made into mush.
  2. Transfer radishes to paper towels laid to a 3-4 sheet thickness. Place a bunch of paper towels of equal thickness on top of the radishes and blot out the excess liquid. Transfer radishes to a medium bowl. (At this point you can also store the radishes in a dry paper towel lined storage bag for up to two days before continuing with the recipe)
  3. In the food processor (no need to rinse the leftover radishes) combine butter, Greek yogurt, sour cream and Kosher salt. Pulse until well mixed and creamy.
  4. Add mixture to the bowl with the radishes and mix throughly. Transfer to a small serving container if serving immediately or tupperware if you are planning to refrigerate for a few days. Refrigerate for up to 4 days.

 

 

 

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Grilled Salsa

In all the years I’ve been cooking I have to confess I never made salsa. I really only made Mexican food for my clients, and if we were having Mexican at home I would pick up a great salsa at the store. That was before I found myself feeding college kids, because what do college kids love more than Mexican food? Nothing! So, a few weeks ago while looking for some recipe inspiration, I stumbled across a recipe for grilled salsa. That immediately caught my attention because I was going to be grilling Mojo Pork Tenderloin for tacos (that recipe coming soon) and I would already have the grill going. Below is my adaptation of an old Cuisine At Home Special edition on grilling…I miss those magazines, just page and page of great recipe ideas! This salsa was such a huge hit, it was demolished that night and I was so relieved to remember I had hidden a tiny container of it in the fridge (tricks you develop when you have hungry college kids raiding your kitchen at night), so I had just enough to top my scrambled eggs the next morning.

Grilled Salsa

Grilled Salsa
Author: 
 
This is such an easy recipe to make - just throw the tomato packet on the grill and let the grill work its magic. If you have leftovers, though I doubt you will, this salsa keeps great in the fridge for several days. Happy cooking!
Ingredients
  • 6 Tomatoes, medium size
  • 1 Onion, medium size, sweet or red
  • 1 Jalapeno
  • ½ cup Canola oil
  • 2 tsp Minced garlic
  • 1 Lime, zest and juice
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Cilantro, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat half of your grill to low and close the lid.
  2. Slice off the tops of the tomatoes and then slice them in half lengthwise. Scoop out half of the tomatoes insides. So, if you make the whole recipe, you will be scooping out the insides of 3 tomatoes. This is so that the salsa is not too watery.
  3. Slice the top and bottom off the onion, and slice it in half.
  4. Slice off the top of the jalapeno and slice it in half lengthwise. I take out the membranes and seeds, but if you want more heat leave some of that in.
  5. On a large piece of aluminum foil, place tomatoes, onion and jalapeno. Toss with canola oil and seal packet. Place on the grill and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Open the packet to check doneness. You want to have some grill marks on the veggies. If the veggies have grill marks, carefully remove the grill packet from the grill and put it on a plate (much easier to carry that way). If none have started to form, turn the burners up to high, leave the grill packet open and let cook for an additional 5 minutes, then remove from the grill and transfer packet to a plate.
  7. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, you can speed this up, by removing the vegetables to a bowl or plate, taking them out of the cooking liquid. When the veggies have cooled slightly, place them in a food processor and discard the cooking liquid.
  8. Add garlic, lime zest and juice, Kosher salt and cilanto and pulse to combine. You will only need to pulse 2-3 times - you want a chunky texture, not a puree.
  9. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. If you do put the salsa in the fridge, remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving so it can come to room temperature. The salsa will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days.

 

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