Pumpkin Shrimp Curry

So, this is a recipe that Jay made and first I was really dubious about this dish, judging it harshly by it’s title. But it is fabulous! I liked it so much in fact, that a few days after making it, Jay had to make it again and again.  Yet, despite my nagging, he never posted the recipe here, so I am going to do it for him.

Pumpkin Shrimp Curry
(from Bon Appetit)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced onion
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup butternut squash, roasted and diced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Steamed rice
Cilantro
Lime zest
Fried shallots

Preparation:
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and ginger; sauté until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Stir in plum tomato and pumpkin purée; cook, stirring frequently, until pumpkin is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, curry powder, and cayenne pepper; simmer for 20 minutes. Add butternut squash, shrimp, and lime juice. Simmer until shrimp are cooked and squash is warm. Serve with steamed rice. Top with cilantro, lime zest, and fried shallots.

Now I don’t know what changes were made to this recipe, if any, so I will have to nag Jay some more to add to this post.  🙂

Wild Rice Pilaf with Craisins. (They’re seasonal)

Wild Rice with Sausage, Apples, and Craisins

No real source for this one… it’s a mix of a half dozen recipes…

Ingredients:
6 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup wild rice

1 pound bulk Italian sausage, removed from casings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 very large very crisp apples, cored and diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cups chicken stock (or water)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tablespoon dried sage
pinch ground nutmeg
salt

lightly toasted pecan pieces and chopped parsley for garnish

Method:
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Rinse the rice well, then add to the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cook 40 minutes. Drain and rinse the wild rice under cold water, and let it drain very well. The rice should not be totally done, but rather just mostly done. It should be toothsome…

Brown the sausage over medium heat. Once it’s very well-cooked, remove it with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels, leaving behind the grease.

If the bottom of the pan looks dry, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook the onion for 5-7 minutes until lightly browned, then add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant.

Add the apples and celery, a moderate pinch of salt, and cook another 2-3 minutes until it is just a little softened.

Add the chicken stock/water, scrape up the tasty goodness on the bottom of the pan, and raise the heat up to medium-high. Once it’s lightly boiling, toss in the cranberries. Let it boil (higher than a simmer but doesn’t have to be crazy) for 2-3 minutes until the liquid has gone mostly down.

Add in the rice and sausage and stir it VERY carefully and semi-infrequently being careful not to burn or over-stir the rice. Turn down the heat if it feels it’s cooking too fast, but if you turn it too low then the rice will turn into mush. Once all the liquid is gone, the rice will start to slightly crisp, just turn it from bottom up every minute or two to let the rice get good all around.  This is when you should add whatever salt you think is necessary.

Remove it from the heat.  When serving, top with toasted nuts and parsley as desired.

Changes:
We are about to try this with currants rather than craisins, because it’s what we have… The first time I made this was with leftover white rice, which actually works great, kind of like using yesterday’s white rice to make fried rice – being dried out helps it soak up all the goodness and get crispy and tasty.

Much Ado About Verjus

Kay brought home a small bottle of verjus from her travels, and we were inspired to use it in recipes that we have never tried before. Taking to the Internet, we found two that sounded like something we would like, and wow were we not disappointed.  So, for the first entry from Jay, you get a double-post!

1) Potato gnocchi with sauteed prawns in a burnt butter verjus sauce

Inspired by this recipe: http://padaek.com/potato-gnocchi-sauteed-prawns-burnt-butter-verjus-sauce/

Ingredients:
1/2 lb Store-bought gnocchi
1 Bunch Fresh Sage
4 Big Flat Kale Leaves, chiffonade.
1/2 lb Shrimp, peeled and deveined.
5 Tbsp butter
1/4 c Capers
2 Tbsp Verjus

Method:
Melt 4 tbsp butter in a sauce pan over medium heat, and as soon as it is melted, toss in the sage leaves. Let it cook until the butter is a very deep brown and the sage is crispy. Remove from the heat and scoop out the sage with a slotted spoon.

Boil a large pot of salted water for the gnocchi. As it is starting to boil, heat a pan over medium heat. Once it is boiling and the pan is hot, toss the gnocchi into the water and the remaining 1 Tbsp butter into the pan. Once the butter is done frothing and just very slightly browned, toss in the shrimp. After 30 seconds, toss the shrimp so the other side can also brown, then another 30 seconds later, you can add the kale and capers.

After maybe 2-3 more minutes, once the gnocchi have risen to the surface, strain them out. Push the shrimp and kale to one side, and put maybe half of the brown butter from the first step into the pan. Toss the well-drained gnocchi into the butter in a single layer, and let it crisp for a minute. Add the rest of the brown butter, and toss the gnocchi to get the other side nice and brown. You’ll notice it soaks the butter right up. After one more minute, toss the pan together, add the verjus, and give it just a quick stir to release anything on the bottom of the pan, being careful not to break up the gnocchi.

Impressions/Changes:
Super tasty!  This one I changed quite a bit, but the soul of the dish, being the crispy brown butter sage, is still there. Rather than making the gnocchi from scratch, our local grocery store makes it fresh daily… a huge time-saver, and the quality is great. It also called for asparagus, but we had Kale at home, and it wound up meshing with the flavors great. The recipe also neglects to tell you to even cook the greens, and does not have you crisp up the outside of the gnocchi, both of which I think are essential.

I think the one thing to play with is the proportions. I did make this twice, and the second time I added twice as much kale, since it felt like it wasn’t enough the first time. Mistake… it was way too much. Maybe next time try 6 leaves? If only we had more verjus…

2) Roast trout with lentils and verjus

The original recipe is here: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/roast-trout-with-lentils-and-verjus

Ingredients:
Lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small carrot, peeled, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup black beluga lentils or French green lentils
2–3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Verjus beurre blanc
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1 whole star anise pod
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
1 cup white verjus
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trout and Assembly
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 6-oz. skin-on steelhead trout or salmon fillets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Method:
Lentils
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5–8 minutes. Mix in lentils and add broth to cover by 1”. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, adding more broth as needed to keep lentils covered, until lentils are tender, 20–30 minutes. Mix in vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside; keep warm.

Verjus Burre Blanc
Bring shallot, garlic, star anise, bay leaf, peppercorns, verjus, and wine to a boil in a medium saucepan and cook until reduced to ¼ cup, 15–20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan; discard solids.
Place saucepan over low heat and gradually whisk in butter, until butter is melted and sauce is emulsified. Whisk in tarragon and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside; keep warm.

Trout and Assembly
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper. Place fish, skin side down, in pan and cook, undisturbed, until skin is crisp and releases from pan, about 4 minutes. Turn fish, add butter to pan, and cook, tilting pan and spooning butter over fish, until opaque throughout, about 2 minutes longer.
Stir parsley into verjus beurre blanc just before serving. Serve fish with lentils and sauce.

Impressions/Changes:
Wow wow wow. This is a new favorite. I did not change the recipe one bit when I made it the first time, and again when I made it the second. It is perfect, and so easy to make, don’t let the ingredient list fool you. The lentils are delicious, the burre blanc is delicious, and both reheat fantastically. Take your time on the fish and get it crispy, and serve it skin-side up like in the photo on the website… it’s perfection.

Changes:
None!

 

Zucchini Canoe

Ok, I am cheating a little bit here, because this is a dish I have made several weeks before, but kind of forgot to post about it.  Which is a shame, because this recipe (with some slight modification to tailor it to my taste) turned out to be great.

STUFFED ZUCCHINI WITH WALNUTS AND FETA
The original recipe can be found here: http://www.food.com/recipe/stuffed-zucchini-with-walnuts-and-feta-126300

4 medium fat zucchini
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, chopped finely (I used more)
2 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled
1⁄4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup white breadcrumb (I used whole wheat)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper, to taste

Put the zucchini in a large pan of boiling water, return to a boil, and then boil for 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and let cool.

When the zucchini are cool enough to handle, cut a thin strip off the top side of each one with a sharp knife and gently score around the inside edges to help scoop out the flesh. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the flesh, leaving a shell to hold the stuffing. Chop the zucchini flesh.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and fry for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chopped zucchini flesh and fry 5 minutes, until the onion is golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in the cheese then the walnuts, bread crumbs, egg, dill, salt, and pepper. Use the stuffing to fill the zucchini shells, and place side by side in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle over the remaining oil.

Cover the dish with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 375F for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown (mine weren’t as brown as I wanted so I broiled them a couple of minutes). Serve hot.

Changes:
I only used two zucchini, so I roughly halved the recipe.  The only changes I have made is that I slightly toasted the walnuts, and used extra feta and dill, and at the very end I melted some shredded smoked cheese on the top of the boats.
The dish was so light and tasty and the little smoked cheese just gave it that extra oomph.
I image it would be good if adding oregano and spinach into the mixture (maybe leaving the dill out then).

Zucchini Owerflow!

So I made this recipe that was inspired by the darling of Hungarian soup kitchens everywhere, the tökfőzelék! (loosely tranlated to creamed pumpkin, but the pumpkin in this case, is more like a squash).  The consistency of this dish is not quite soup, not quite solid and the texture is, well… let’s just say I was pretty much the only kid in my class that did not groan on days when this was on the menu.  I can’t even remember when was the last time I had this dish, but I am pretty sure that it was made by my dear grandma… pretty long time ago.  However, my aunt recently mentioned during one of our skype conversations that she made it and it put the spores of longing in my head.   Right on cue, we got a pile of GIGANTIC zucchinis from Rob and when pondering what to do with all of it, this dish was the first thing I thought of.

Creamed Zucchini with Dill 
The original recipe I used as a base is in Hungarian and can be found here:
http://www.nosalty.hu/recept/kapros-cukkinifozelek-nolgitol

1 buch Dill
2 lb. zucchini
1 small head of onion, chopped small
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoon yogurt
3 Tablespoon sour cream
1 Tablespoon sunflower seed oil (or vegetable oil)

Shred the zucchini (unpeeled, if the rind is not too tough) on grater with large holes, salt and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

Sautee the onion in the oil until softened, then add the shredded zucchini, the minced garlic, and minced dill (the original recipe says, half a bunch, but this was a pretty big bunch, so I only put in about 1/4 – 1/3 of the bunch), the sugar and additional salt if necessary. Cover the pot and let it cook a bit then add “enough water to cover” and continue cooking until the zucchini is soft.

Make a light roux with the oil and the flour, then add yogurt and sour cream, if necessary, add some water and add this to the zucchini. Boil once and turn off heat. Done.

ISSUES:
1. So this is the translation of the above recipe. I had a few questions right at the beginning, like, “Okay, so I salt this thing and let it sit, but the recipe does not say to squeeze out the salty liquid the zucchini will let out.”  Should I?  Shouldn’t I?
– I decided not to, because I was lazy, so I just used a sensible amount of salt on the shredded zucchini.

2. “Add enough water to cover”. Well shit.  I was doubling the recipe, because of the amount of zucchini we have in the fridge, and depending on the size of the pan i put all the shredded goop, the amount of water necessary to cover it, will vary.
I choose a medium stockpot and sure enough, the zucchini filled it about halfway.  Either way, I did what the recipe suggested and covered it with a light chicken stock until it kind of covered it.  It was a big, but not so unfortunate mistake.  When I realized at the end that I have WAY more liquid in the pot than necessary, I just removed the excess, cooked up some extra zucchini and made a really delicious zucchini cream soup.  🙂

3. The amount of oil vs flour in the roux seems off. 3T flour in 1T oil will turn into clumps of greasy flour instead of a smooth roux?  It sure did.  So I added some more oil.

All in all, the recipe turned out just okay, I was not so super crazy about it.  Maybe salt + squeezing the zucchini, less liquid, and some vinegar at the end would change things, but doubt I would make this version again. I was actually thinking about sauteeing the onions, adding the flour to make a roux, adding liquid so I see how thick it gets, then adding the squash & dill and cook it. (It cooks in minutes, as I like it semi hard)  Then add sour cream and vinegar and maybe a bit of paprika?

Awesomesauce

I had made some Chicken Piccata over the weekend and had a bit of leftover chicken so I decided to whip up a quick tomato sauce and do a mock Chicken Parm for dinner.  This tomato sauce turned out delicious, so I am going to write it down what I have done before I forget it. It had just a tiny bite of heat from the ground red peppers somewhere in the back of my palate, which I have really enjoyed.

I finely chopped half of a purple onion (the only kind we had at home) and sauteed it in a mix of EVOO and avocado oil, then I crushed 4 garlic cloves and sauteed them with the onions some more.
I poured in a box of Pomi crushed tomatoes and seasoned the sauce with basil, oregano and touch of marjoram. (about a tsp of each, I usually don’t measure, just go by feeling).  Also seasoned it with pepper.  Later on, I also added about half a teaspoon of crushed red peppers, a tiny pinch of cinnamon, and about a teaspoon of sugar as I found the sauce a bit too tart. Cooked it for about an hour and a half, until it reduced and was pretty thick, then I used the immersion blender to make it completely smooth.

Chicken Piccata / Brow-no-she-betta-don’t

Eddie is in town and both him and Brian are hanging out at our house for a DnD night, and I decided on a relatively easy dish to make for dinner. This recipe is from Cooking Light, and is quite a favorite of my husband.

Chicken Piccata

  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 ounces all-purpose flour, divided (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Place 1 teaspoon flour in a small bowl, and place remaining flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle both sides of chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour in shallow dish; shake off excess.

  2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

  3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan; swirl to coat.
    Add shallots to pan; sauté 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
    Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly.
    Add wine; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup broth to reserved 1 teaspoon flour; stir until smooth.
    Add remaining 1/2 cup broth to pan; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half (about 5 minutes).
    Stir in flour mixture; cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, juice, and capers. Place 1 chicken breast half on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 2 tablespoons sauce. Sprinkle each serving with about 2 teaspoons parsley.

     

    I basically butterflied the chicken and then cut it in half completely. Pounded both halves lightly and dredged the pieces into flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
    Seared the chicken pieces according to the recipe, but … it needed a heck of a lot more oil than that measly 2T.  The pan should be on medium-low setting, otherwise the dripping and flour from the first batch of the chicken will burn by the time the second batch is done. 4 breast pieces = 8 cutlets and no way that would have fit even in my largest pan all at once.  Everything turned out great!
    I had this stupid, hare brained idea to mix the spaghetti into the sauce to make sure everyone has enough sauce on their dish… big mistake.  There was too much pasta for too little sauce and it ended up as a somewhat tasty, but pretty dry pasta with some chicken on top.  Never again.  Just serve on plain pasta with the sauce spooned over the chicken.

 

As a note:  For dessert I made Coconut Brownies from Good Food.  https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/402625/fudgy-coconut-brownies

Fudgy Coconut Brownies
100g cocoa
250g butter
500g golden caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
100g self-raising flour
100g desiccated coconut
icing sugar, to dust (optional)

1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas (I set it to 320F convection). Line the base of a 21cm square tin with baking parchment. (used 9 x 9 square pan).
Put the cocoa, butter and sugar in your largest saucepan and gently melt, stirring so the mixture doesn’t catch. When the cocoa mixture is melted and combined, cool slightly, then stir in the eggs, little by little, followed by the flour and coconut.

2. Tip into the tin and bake for 45 mins on a middle shelf – check after 30 mins and cover with another piece of baking parchment if the crust is browning too much. Cool in the tin, then carefully lift out and cut into squares.

So, I made my own self rising flour (1 c. flour, 1/2 t. salt, 1 1/2 t. baking powder) and used plain old granulated sugar. For the coconut, we had coconut flakes, but I think shredded coconut would definitely work better the next time.

The brownies looked okay, albeit maybe a little underdone. They only had about 4 hours to sit in the fridge before people were ready for dessert and omg it was the saddest, most disgusting brownie ever. It was crumbly and sticky and it had an odd, chalky texture from the coconuts.  So I put it back in the fridge and forgot about it for two days…   NOW. Now it is amazing, soft and chewy and fudgy … dammit.  So definitely a recipe that should be sitting in the fridge for at least a day for it to be perfect.  However, that 500g of sugar in it is downright scary.  I believe Kittencal’s brownies were way better than this one.

Chicken Soup with Tarragon for the Soul

This soup always reminds me of home and of my Mother.  She is the champion of this dish and I request it every time I visit her.   She usually makes it, so I can have it on the day I arrive because she knows that this soup works wonders on my tired body and mind. I can’t find anything more soothing after 24+ hours of traveling.  We both like to make this soup especially often in late spring/early summer, when there is an abundance of fresh peas at the markets. The young, tender peas are taking these already delicious dish to another dimension.  🙂
Writing down this recipe is somewhat difficult, as I do not have an exact recipe for it.  I sometimes vary the vegetables I put in it, sometimes make it out of raw chicken, sometimes out of the already grilled ones.  When I make it out of raw chicken, I prefer to use skinless, boneless chicken thighs, which is a lot more flavorful meat and not quite as dry as the breast. When cutting the vegetables, I am trying to cut everything roughly about the same size for more even cooking.

Chicken Soup with vegetables and tarragon
1 medium sized onion, chopped finely
4 – 6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into smaller cubes (about an inch cubes? )
1 1/2 Tablespoon tarragon
2-3 carrots, cut into cubes or half inch slices
1 parsnip, cut into cubes or half inch slices
2-3 sticks of celery, cut into cubes or half inch slices
1 smaller turnip, cut into cubes
– On availability, 1/2 celery root (or celeriac) that is about the same size as the turnip (good luck finding it) or about a quarter of the average heads you can find at the store.
About 1/2 -1 Tablespoon flour
1 box (48 oz.) low sodium chicken stock (I prefer the one from Whole Foods)
1 cup (shelled) peas
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Fresh parsley

In the soup pot, I heat about a tablespoon of duck fat and I sautee the onion in it until soft-ish.  Then I add the cubed chicken and sautee it some more, until evenly white on all sides and most of the liquids the chicken might have let out evaporated. At this point, I add all the cut up vegetables and the tarragon to the pot and sautee the veggies some more. Then I add salt and sautee the veggies for a minute or two and add just a very little water, maybe 1/2 cup, just enough that it won’t burn.  On low heat, with the lid on,  I let the vegetables and the chicken simmer slowly until they are about halfway done.  Gosh. Maybe about 20-25 minutes?  At this point, I remove the lid and let the majority of the remaining cooking liquid evaporate, then I sprinkle about a Tablespoon of flour over the vegetables, and after mixing it well, I pour in the box of chicken stock.
I replace the lid and let the stock come back to a slow simmer, and at this point I add the peas.  At this point, it is safe to taste and can adjust the seasoning to taste with salt, pepper and more tarragon, if necessary.   The soup should simmer for another 10-15 minutes after the peas have been added and it then should be done.  If the veggies are soft, but not mushy, then it’s perfect.  One of the most important steps is coming now, which is to flavor the soup with lemon juice to liking. I usually add about half a lemon juice. But everyone should add about a tablespoonful first and taste the soup, then adjust to liking from there, instead of just adding the juice of half a lemon.
When serving, I present the soup with finely chopped fresh parsley.

If I feel like it, sometimes I make nokedli (spetzle?) into the soup, which is 1 egg, flour and a little salt. Mix it until you get a kinda runny, kinda sticky though. Kinda like pancake batter, but a little bit thicker.  I usually put this dough onto a small, wet cutting board and use a knife to flick little pieces of dough into the lightly boiling soup.
These spetzle are done after a minute or so and add a really nice flavor and texture to the soup.    Some people in Hungary add about 1/2 cup sour cream mixed with one egg yolk at the end of the cooking (has to be tempered, of course), while others add tarragon vinegar instead of lemon juice –  I have not tried these seasoning methods yet.

Wine Tasting

Jay and I went to a wine tasting class shortly after I got back from Hungary.  We had high hopes it would introduce us to at least some of the basic differences between certain types of red and white wines, it was anything but.  However, it was a fun-ish two hours where we get to sample 10 different wines.

Our favorites were:
#1 – 2016 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc – Marlborough, New Zealand
#2 –  2016 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
#3 – 2012 Chateaux Carbonnieux – Pessac-Leognan – Bordeux, France

Que so good!

Sorry for the bad pun.  >.>
So today my husband invited some of his work mates over for a “meeting” instead of having to go to the office.  As it happened, sous vide steaks were incorporated into this very official meeting, along with a bottle of bourbon.  Anyway, I wanted to make some easy appetizers that the guys can snack on until everything else is ready, but the effort I was willing to invest in it was minimal. After some searching on the net, I settled on this Queso dip from food. com that got quite a number of positive reviews.

Texas Best Cheese Dip (by Junebug from Food.com)
Serving: 16
1 lb. Velveeta Mexican cheese
12 oz. cream cheese
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch green onion, green part only, chopped
3-6 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2-3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
Black Pepper, cracked
Melt cheeses in microwave or on stove top. Stir in everything. Serve warm.|

I only made half of this recipe, so I used 1/2 of the cheeses, 1/2 of the bunch of onions, 2 jalapenos, a tomato, two smaller garlic cloves and about 2 T. chopped cilantro and some cracked pepper.   After tasting this dip the first time, I could not believe how good it was.
As I was shopping for ingredients, for a brief moment I considered buying a better brand of salsa instead of chopping all those ingredients, but then I decided against it and it proved to be a very good decision later on, as the fresh ingredients make this queso just “zing!”  It disappeared fairly quickly and was requested again a few days later for the July 4th family grilltime.  At this time I made the whole recipe, with 4 big jalapenos, and 3 garlic cloves, which was plenty.  I only put in one tomato as I forgot to buy extras and had only one left, and it was okay, but  two would have been better. This time I put in about … a 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro? I did not measure it, just went by feeling as usual.
One thing is for sure, 1/2 a bunch of cilantro might be a bit too much, especially if it a larger bouquet.  When melting the cheeses, it helps if they are cut into smaller pieces and are stirred at about a minute intervals while microwaving.