Thursday Tip: Spinach Salsa Queso Dip

I don’t know about you, but with it being the holiday season, I have a series of potlucks on my calendar. I’m always looking for something quick and easy but also tasty to bring in.  In case you hadn’t figured out from previous posts, I LOVE my slow cooker (see here, here, and here), so when my office was having a dip contest, I once again turned to my trusty slow cooker.  This recipe only has a few ingredients, is super easy to make, and I don’t mean to brag (okay, maybe I do), but I won the dip contest, so I can assure you it’s quite tasty.

Spinach Salsa Queso Dip

INGREDIENTS

10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 lb reduced fat Velveeta cheese
8 oz light cream cheese
12 oz salsa
cilantro, optional

DIRECTIONS

Cut Velveeta and cream cheese into smallish cubes.  Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cook on low for approximately one hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Note: You can also heat using the oven or microwave.  For other cooking options, see original post here.

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Thursday Tip- Mint Chocolate Cookie Recipe

A friend of mine introduced me to this cookie recipe back when we were in college.  It’s been a holiday favorite ever since.  Careful- they’re addicting!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons water
2 3/4 cup margarine
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 boxes andes chocolate mints

 DIRECTIONS
In a large saucepan over low heat (or in microwave) cook margarine, sugar and water until margarine is melted.  Add chocolate chips and stir till completely melted.
Pour into large mixing bowl and let stand 10 minutes.  Then, at high speed on the mixer, beat in eggs one at a time.  Reduce to low speed and add dry ingredients beating until blended.  Chill dough at least 1 hour.
Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with foil (this is important), roll dough into balls (about 1 tsp in size).   Place 2 inches apart.  Bake 12-13 minutes- NO LONGER.  They will crisp as they cool.
Remove from oven and immediately place a mint on each cookie.  Swirl mint with spoon when slightly melted.
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.
Jenny’s Shortcuts and Tips:  I don’t wait the 10 minutes or the full hour and the cookies still come out fine.  I do put the dough in the fridge for at least a little bit before I put it on the cookie sheets otherwise it’s super gooey and sticks to my fingers.  Definitely put the mints on as soon as you take the cookies out of the oven, otherwise they might not fully melt.  The cookies are best when they’re soft- I generally bake them for 10 minutes and check if they need to stay in there another minute or 2.  Have fun and enjoy! 🙂

Thursday Tip- Slow Cooker Holiday Recipes- Mac N Cheese and Mashed Potatoes

Just enough time this week to pop in with an early Thursday Tip.  Here are a few favorite slow cooker holiday recipes, perfect to take to a potluck or host a large group at home.

First up is a favorite at the office (I’ve taken a double batch in for several work potlucks now), Paula Deen’s Slow Cooker Mac N Cheese.  Okay, I admit 1. I’m not a huge fan of Paula Deen (not even before the whole “racist” shenanigans) and 2. This is ridiculously unhealthy for you.  The thing is, it’s outrageously delicious, serves a large group, and is super easy to make.  Sold.

I’ve made a few of my own tweaks to the recipe, but you can find the original here.

Slow Cooker Mac N Cheese
(Serves 12)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, cut into pieces
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cook on low for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Yes, that’s truly it.  Paula has you melting the cheese and butter ahead of time and adding 3 eggs.  I don’t have time for that shiz.  Plus, if you haven’t already gathered, I’m an incredibly lazy cook.  So I was like “screw you Paula, your pre-melted sauce, and your eggs.”  Guess what?  Came out the same as when I followed the directions.  When I take this one in for a potluck, I cook the macaroni the night before and keep it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, I grab all my ingredients and go, then throw everything in there and start cooking it at work.  Don’t panic if your cheese looks clumpy when it first starts to cook.  It all melts together beautifully over time (just be sure to stir it every once in a while).

Next up?  Another classic holiday side dish.  Mashed potatoes- in the slow cooker- and you don’t have to peel them!  Mind blown, right?  Mashed potatoes are tricky as a potluck food, so I was super excited when I found this recipe and could bring mashed potatoes to our holiday potluck last year.

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
(Serves 12)

INGREDIENTS

5 lbs red potatoes (or sierra gold), diced and unpeeled
1 cup water
1 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/3 cup milk

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients except milk in slow cooker.  Cook on high for 4 hours.  After 4 hours, mash potatoes by hand or with a mixer.  Add as much milk as needed till you achieve the right consistency.

Yes, that’s it.  For the potluck I just did the same kind of thing as I did for the mac n cheese- I cut up the potatoes the night before and took all ingredients into work with me so it could cook.  Yes, I also took a potato masher (the potatoes get so soft that mashing is no biggie).

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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Thursday Tip- Brie Cheese Appetizer

So, here’s my thing.  I like having people over, but I don’t want to be running around finishing up appetizers as people are arriving or fussing over a complicated meal (which unfortunately has happened before).  I want to enjoy my guests.  So I try to stick for uncomplicated, quick, easy, but also delicious recipes for having people over.

I discovered this recipe after having it at a friend’s house.  If I’d just seen it online, I probably would have passed it over because it sounds like a weird combination, but it’s actually delicious (probably could have eaten the whole thing myself, but I refrained because I have manners).  After a little digging, I found a recipe here.

Brie Cheese Appetizer

Ingredients

1 wheel brie cheese (about 18 oz)
3 tablespoons apricot preserves (you can also try other flavors like raspberry)
1 container of Pillsbury crescent rolls (I think the recipe I found calls for puff pastry, but crescent rolls work for me)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a cookie sheet

Do not separate, but spread the crescent rolls out on the cookie sheet flat.

Slice the cheese in half so that you have 2 separate layers of cheese.  Spread preserves on one half of the cheese then put the other layer on top (like a sandwich).  Place the layers of cheese and preserves in the middle of the crescent roll dough and wrap the dough so that it completely covers the cheese.  Flip so that the “seam” of the dough is on the bottom.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.

Serve with crackers.

 

Thursday Tip- Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

Happy football season!  This is one of my Pinterest faves (original recipe here).  It’s perfect for having people over to watch a game since it doesn’t require a ton of work (especially after I cut out a few steps… I’m lazy like that).

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches
(Serves 4-6 people)

3.5lbs of beef chuck roast

I.5 cans (16 oz) beef broth

1 can (10.5 oz) french onion soup

6 oz red wine

1 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper, to taste

6 french rolls

6 (or more) slices of provolone cheese

Trim excess fat off of beef roast and season meat with salt and pepper.

Pour beef broth, soup, red wine and garlic powder into slow cooker with beef roast.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Slice or shred beef

Lightly toast the bread.  The easiest way to toast the buns is to set your oven to broil, spread the buns out on a baking sheet, and broil for a few minutes.  Seriously, only 2-3 minutes, though.  They toast FAST.  I nearly burned down my kitchen toasting buns one time.

Serve beef on rolls with cheese and spoon beef juice into individual bowls so each person has their own dip.

If you’re serving it to a group, you can just do chips or something easy like that as a side, but when I make it for JD, I like to make homemade sweet potato fries.  To do those, just preheat your oven to 425 and cut an uncooked sweet potato into individual fries, then  place in a lidded container with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (another thing about me- I generally just eyeball things when I cook instead of measuring things out exactly) and seasoning of your choice, to taste (I like McCormick’s Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning).  Shake the container (make sure the lid is sealed tightly!) to coat the fries in the olive oil and seasoning.  Spread out on a baking pan and bake for at least 20 minutes, flipping once (cooking time will vary based on the size of fries you cut).

P.S.  The original plan was to have pictures of this recipe by the time I posted it.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.  I did my shopping at Target instead of my usual grocery store, so the selection was limited and our meal plan for the week changed.  Anyway, it looks like beef on a bun with melted cheese, if that helps 🙂