Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some Kind of Queso...

We had a potluck at work today and I decided to sign up for queso and chips. I decided not to lay up and buy queso in a jar and instead made a homemade queso for all to enjoy. The queso wasn't hard to make, but it was time consuming. It turned out with a great flavor, but is a little on the thick side.
Wine is a "must" when cooking!!
Below is the recipe I used. I quadrupled it so I had enough to feed everyone at work. The recipe came from www.FoodNetwork.com. All in all I think I'd make it again, but add sour cream to thin it out.

Some Kind of Queso

4 ounces fresh chorizo, casings removed, crumbled (I used Jimmy Dean's HOT sausage)
Olive oil, as needed
1 small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
5 tsp. all-purpose flour
1/2c. Mexican lager-style beer (I used Mich Light as that's what we had in the house)
1/4c. chopped pickled jalapeno, plus 1T. pickling juice
3/4c. milk
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, finely diced (about 1c.)
4 ounces whole-milk mozzarella, finely diced (about 1c.)
2T. chopped cilantro

Cook the chorizo. Strain the meat and if possible, reserve about 1T. of the oil in the pan. If there is less than 1T., add enough olive oil to make 1T. Place heat on medium and add the onions to the oil, stirring occasionally, until soft (about 5-6 minutes). Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour is golden, 1 minute. Pour in the beer and bring to a boil. Stir in the chopped jalapenos and pickling juice and cook 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking, and bring to a gentle boil until thickened, about 1 minute. Add the cheeses and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until the cheese fully melts, about 3 minutes. Stir in the meat. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the cilantro.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wine Country

After a much needed vacation to wine country, I've now been back to work for a full week and feel back in the swing of things. This trip to Napa was my first and it was AMAZING!!!! Not only was the trip amazing because we ate delicious food and drank wine pretty much all day and night, everyday, but I can confidently say that I am far more knowledgeable about wine. I used to simply drink a glass of wine, but now I feel my understanding of wine has changed simply drinking it, into an experience for each new sip. I've also learned that I'm far more critical of the wines I try.

While in Napa we decided to join a wine club at the vineyard we liked most. We are now Chappellet Wine Club members. Our first six bottles of wine were shipped out this past Monday. I'm looking forward to receiving the package and enjoying each different wine over the course of the next few months until the next shipment arrives with six more new flavors! For those of you who like wine and haven't been to wine country, add it to your list of trips because it is a MUST!! YUM!! I can't wait for the next eight hours to fly by because I'm thinking wine is in order with dinner this evening!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

With the fall weather we've been experiencing, it's put me in the mood for all things "pumpkinny" and "fallish". I saw a recipe on one of my favorite blogs for Mini Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake and knew I had to try it.

Sunday, I attempted to make the dessert and because I had a problem reading the directions, it only somewhat turned out.  Basically half the batch was made correctly and was delicious.  I will make these again, but next time, follow the directions exactly! This was the exact fall dessert I was looking for and am looking forward to making it again (correctly next time)!
Crust mixture
Pre-pressed crust
Cheesecake mixture
Finished product, pre-refrigeration
Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

-7 graham cracker sheets
-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
-2 Tbsp sugar
-4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Mixture
-8oz. Cool Whip Free
-1 (8oz) package fat-free cream cheese
-6 splenda packets (or 1/4 cup sugar)
-2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pumpkin Mixture
-1/3 cup pumpkin puree
-1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. allspice

Place graham crackers into a bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Place the graham cracker crumbs into a bowl and add the ground cinnamon and sugar. Melt the butter and add it to the graham cracker crumbs. Mix it all up.

Line a cupcake pan (or use a pie pan minus cupcake liners) and put one tablespoon of the graham cracker crumb mixture in the bottom of each liner. Press down the crumbs with your hand. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese, vaniilla extract and splenda (or sugar) until fluffy. Add teh Cool Whip and whip until smooth.

To make the pumpkin mixture, combine the pumpkin puree, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground ginger and allspice. Add 2/3 cup (this is where I went wrong) of the cheesecake mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Stir until the two batters are completely combined and there are no lumps.

Fill each cupcake liner with cheesecake mixutre (almost to the top). Place a few dots of the pumpkin mixture on top of the cheesecake mixture. Use a toothpic or knife to swirl the two batters. Place the cupcake pans in the fridge to chill overnight. When done, enjoy!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Brunch Date

This past weekend, two of my best friends and I met at the Red Stag Supper Club. Although it sounds like they only serve up dinner, they also serve brunch and lunch. I have heard only great things about their food and had been wanting to try it for quite some time.

They start you off with your choice of either regular or sparkling water as well as complimentary coffee cake served on a wooden block. The coffee cake wasn't terrible, but it definitely wasn't their finest offering; it was free though, so who can complain?! After thoroughly reviewing the menu, we ALL ended up ordering a version of the Eggs Benedict. Needless to say, we ALL made the right choice, it was delicious!! On top of the taste, another great thing about this place is they serve mostly local and organic foods (Bonus!).

I will definitely be visiting again and recommend you do too!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Must Have" - Handbags!

With our California trip in sight, I've been mentally packing. One thing on the list is a crossbody bag, which is something I've been wanting for a while.

I've found myself on several occasions in which we are walking around a ton and one shoulder gets too heavy. In these situations, a crossbody bag would have been the perfect solution. With biking and walking on the agenda for our trip a crossbody bag is a MUST!

Which one is your favorite?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dispatch & Friends

If you know me, you know I absolutely LOVE music. Last night I had the opportunity to attend the Dispatch concert at the Orpheum theater in Minneapolis. I was introduced to Dispatch in college and have been a HUGE fan ever since so this concert has been a long time coming. They were every bit as fabulous in person as they sound through my iPod! As they tour, they are recording each individual performance and giving this as a free (download) gift to those who attended. I've yet to download my copy, but I can't wait to relive the concert. If possible, I will share via blog post.  

On top of their spectacular performance, they chose the indie band, Good Old War, to open for them. I'd never heard of them, but they were great too and I've added them to the list of Marvelous Melodies. Two bands to add to your list of Pandora stations! ;)
Notable dinner before the concert at the Bullfrog Cajun Bar in Minneapolis.
Good Old War

Dispatch (All three above)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Becoming an Electrician...

My husband and I have decided to slowly, but surely, update things in our home. This weekend we took a trip to Menards and purchased a new light fixture, switchplate covers as well as vents for the piano room. When we returned home, I decided I wanted to do the handiwork. My husband walked me through installing the light fixture (then took a nap while I got to work). After an hour and a half of trial and error, the light was up and working!

I attempted to put the switchplate covers on as well, but our home was built in the 50s and in order to put new switchplate covers on, we also will need to replace the actual light switch itself. Another project for another day. Ultimately, the point of this post is that anyone can become an electrician like I did (I suggest doing your work while it's still light outside)! ;)

1. Put your handy-dandy headlamp on.
2. Read the instructions and start the installation (instructions before insallation may buy you time in the end).
2. Connect the wires and attach the light bulbs to check for success.

3. If the test worked, finish attaching to the ceiling and applaud your handiwork!
4. Notice it's a little crooked, but don't tell anyone because from the ground up you can't tell! ;)