Monthly Archives: November 2012

Roasted and Pureed Butternut Squash

This is a staple in our home at Thanksgiving, but it’s great anytime of the year. Even the “non-squash eaters” seem to enjoy it. Adjust the brown sugar to your liking and use butter to the extent desired (it’s not necessary, but some people enjoy a more buttery flavor). Keep in mind the addition of the butter will change the consistency and make it a little thinner.

I photographed this before I took it over to my sister-in-law’s house; I wish I had photographed it when the brown sugar was carmelized on the top after it had been in the oven for a bit.

SERVINGS: About 8-12

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Large Butternut Squash*
  • 2/3 Cup Brown Sugar (light or dark) plus extra for topping
  • 3 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 2-4 TBS. Unsalted Butter (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash into 1 inch wide segments and then cut into 1 inch cubes (leave the skin on). Spread the squash pieces on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast the squash in the oven until tender and lightly browned (about 30-45 minutes).

Roasted squash

Allow squash to cool and remove the skin. Melt butter, if using. Put the squash into a blender or food processor, add brown sugar (and butter, if using) and process until squash is pureed. Transfer pureed squash to a baking dish and sprinkle with additional brown sugar if desired. Return to oven and heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until warm all the way through.

*To save time and steps, use 2 bags of cut and peeled uncooked butternut squash (available at Trader Joe’s).

Turkey 101

Last Year’s Herb Roasted Turkey

My apologies for the photography – I think I took this picture with my phone. This is a picture of last year’s turkey which was 22 lbs. and fed the two of us nicely. (I love turkey leftovers, and my daughter says that Thanksgiving is pretty useless other than the awesome leftover sandwiches). For those of you who may be intimidated by the task of cooking a turkey, I promise you, it is one of the easiest things to cook. Here are a couple of tips and some observations that newbies might appreciate:

Q: What size turkey should I buy?
A: Typically 1 lb. per person is the guideline. This allows everyone to have their fair share at dinner and allows for some leftovers. Notice the operative word some? I love leftovers, so I always figure at least 1.5 lbs. per person.

Q: Is there a big difference between a “fresh” turkey and a frozen turkey? A: I will have to say that, in the past, we always special ordered a “fresh” Amish turkey from our specialty grocery store, but every year there was evidence that the turkey had been frozen (and was sometimes still partially frozen). So, if that’s the case, why not save some money and buy a frozen turkey? One reason is the amount of time required to thaw a turkey.

Q: How long does it take to thaw a turkey?
A: There are two ways to safely thaw a turkey; one way is in the refrigerator, and the other is the cold water method. NEVER thaw a turkey at room temperature. To thaw a turkey in the refrigerator, you need to allow 24 hours for every 5 lbs. of turkey. This means it can take up to 5 days to thaw a large bird. Remember, that’s valuable refrigerator space with a holiday approaching. To thaw a turkey in cold water, allow 30 minutes per lb. of turkey. Simply place the bird (in it’s original sealed package)in a bath of cold water (you can fill your sink or buy a rubbermaid container or use a large stock pot). Change the water every 30 minutes.

Q: What’s the difference between “all natural,” “free range,” “Kosher,”
“Heritage Breed,” or “injected?”                                                               A:Well, that’s a complicated question, and one that has already been addressed on another blog which I follow : serious eats. Bryan and I did purchase two (no that’s not a typo – we are roasting one turkey and smoking the other) Heritage Breed turkeys this year from our favorite pork farmers (no, pork is not a typo – they partnered with a turkey farmer this year) at Melo Farms. The heritage breeds have become quite popular (they just sound sophisticated), but our reasoning is that we know the turkeys were raised in a humane way because that’s what Melo Farms is committed to. I will have to let you know how they turn out.

Q: What is the best way to cook a turkey?                                                        A: I have to admit that I only have experience roasting a turkey in the oven. The reason is that I just love roasted turkey so much that I haven’t wanted to give it up and possibly risk being dissatisfied. What that’s old expression…”if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”? I have, however heard wonderful things about deep fried turkeys, but that whole deep frying thing intimidates and scares me a little. This year we invested in a smoker and bought a rotisserie attachment for the grill, so we are going to try that. We practiced on a whole chicken the other night and the results were outstanding.

Q: Should I brine my turkey?                                                                              A: I am a big fan of brining. My mother never brined, nor did my Great Aunts who often hosted us for Thanksgiving, and their turkeys were always pretty good. However, I tried brining a couple of years ago after I saw a brining mix at my local specialty grocery store. I will have to say – I will never go back to unbrined. It’s tempting this year because I am convinced that our free range, humanely raised turkey is going to be superior, but I don’t want to risk it. I read a very interesting blog article (same blog as above) that suggested brining was futile, but I wasn’t convinced. However, if you want to make a more informed choice check this out: The Truth about Brining . Unfortunately, I don’t have a good brining recipe because I just buy the mix.

Q: How long does a turkey need to cook?                                                        A: The general rule is 18-20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds), or 15-18 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds). I never trusted those little pop-up plastic things, so I always check the temperature with a reliable meat thermometer. The stuffing must be at least 165 degrees, the breast should be 170 degrees, and the thigh meat should be 180 degrees. Some will argue that the turkey will continue to cook while it rests (which is true, and you should always let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes – just enough time to make the gravy), so you can go a little lower on the internal temperatures. My response to that is that this is poultry – I don’t mess around with poultry, especially when I’m feeding it to the people I love the most in this world, my family.

Q: At what temperature should I cook my turkey?                                        A: I preheat my oven to 425 degrees and turn it down to 350 degrees when the turkey goes in. As you can see from the photo, this will result in a nicely browned turkey (I like it that way – good crispy skin). Sometimes I will just lay a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top of the bird if it’s getting too brown.

Q: Is it better to stuff the bird or cook the stuffing separately?
A: I say do both. I don’t worry about bacteria in the stuffing because I check the temperature of the stuffing. I’m not the biggest stuffing fan, but everyone else in my family is, so I make a ton of stuffing. Everyone always wants the stuffing out of the bird because it is extra moist. However, you can only fit so much stuffing into those cavities, so I stuff the bird and cook the extra on the side (add extra liquid to the stuffing that goes in the oven). An important note: remove the stuffing from the bird before storing the leftover bird in the refrigerator – stuffing left in the bird is a recipe for salmonella.

Q: How often should I baste the turkey?                                                          A: In an ideal world, one in which you had nothing else going on, you would baste every 15-20 minutes to ensure a juicy bird. However, most turkeys won’t even start to give off juices until nearly an hour of cooking. I always keep an inch of chicken stock (or turkey stock if you have it) in the bottom of my roasting pan (I have a wire rack in the roaster that keeps the turkey elevated, so it’s not sitting in broth). Some people say this results in a “steamed” turkey, but just look at the picture above and you can see that there’s nothing “steamed” about that bird. I check the liquid level about every hour (adding more if necessary) and will baste when I do that. When it gets down to the last two hours, I stop adding broth and let what’s in the pan reduce. This method results in a very moist turkey, and it allows me to cook the giblets and the neck bone alongside the turkey, which makes for great gravy.

Q: Some people suggest rinsing or cleaning the bird before cooking, what does that mean?                                                                                                     A: Because I used to raise my own turkeys and they were slaughtered on my farm, I am very familiar with the processing of a turkey. Not every butchering operation has the same standards of quality control that I have. I always check my turkey over for any leftover pin feathers (small little feathers that get overlooked). If you find any, use a pair of clean tweezers to pull them out. Also, I check the cavity of the bird. For most grocery store turkeys, this is where the giblets and neck will be placed. They are typically in a paper-type bag (probably a result of so many people forgetting to remove them from the cavity), and you’ll want to remove those. I usually inspect the organs and decide if I want to use them – they add great flavor to gravy – and I always cook the neck alongside my turkey. After removing the bag of goodies and the neck, I just run my hand on the inside of the cavity and make sure there’s not extra loose “stuff.” If there is, I pull that off and discard it.

Here’s my basic herb roasted  turkey recipe:

Herb Roasted Turkey

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 TBS Fresh Rosemary (or 1 1/2 TBS. dried)- chopped
  • 3 TBS Fresh Thyme (or 1 1/2 TBS. dried) – chopped
  • 3 TBS Fresh Tarragon (or 1 1/2 TBS. dried) – chopped
  • 1 TBS. ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1  15- to 21-pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved
  • Fresh herb sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

INSTRUCTIONS:

Calculate total roasting time based on the following: 18-20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds), or 15-18 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds).

Mix first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Pat turkey dry with paper towels and place on rack set in large roasting pan. If not stuffing turkey, place herb sprigs in main cavity. If stuffing turkey, spoon stuffing into main cavity. Tie legs together loosely to hold shape of turkey. Brush turkey with oil. Rub herb mix all over turkey. Place turkey neck and giblets in roasting pan. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead if turkey is not stuffed. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.)

Position rack in lower part of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Drizzle melted butter all over turkey. Pour 2 cups broth into pan. Put turkey in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Roast turkey 45 minutes. Remove turkey from oven and lightly cover breast and legs with foil. Baste turkey every 30-45 minutes and add more broth if level goes below 1 inch. Remove foil from turkey for the last 1 hour of roasting; add more broth to the pan if necessary. Continue roasting turkey until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180 degrees – breast should register at 170 degrees. If turkey is stuffed, stuffing should register at 165 degrees. Transfer turkey to platter; tent with foil. Let stand 30 minutes. Reserve liquid in pan for gravy.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Zinfindel Quince Glaze

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake with Quince Zinfindel Glaze

I hate buying specialty cooking items, but my mini cheesecake pan was worth the money. I’m not a dessert person, or a baker (except for pies), but I love cheesecake. Mini cheesecakes are even better than regular cheesecake, and they are great at a party. I served these at my Wicked Wine Tasting, so I not only wanted a cheesecake, but I wanted a glaze that incorporated wine. The Quince Zinfindel (you could use a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot) glaze was the perfect accompaniment for the delicate pumpkin cheesecake. These mini cheesecakes are super easy (spoken from the non-baker) and the recipe could easily be adapted to make a full size cheesecake. This recipe makes 12 mini cheesecakes, but you can easily double or triple.

INGREDIENTS:

For the Crust:

  • 1 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs*
  • 6 TBS. Unsalted Butter – melted
  • 2 TBS. Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. Nutmeg

For the Filling:

  • 3/4 Cup Canned Pumpkin
  • 16 Oz. Cream Cheese -softened
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • Pinch of Ground Cloves

*You can purchase graham cracker crumbs or just run a couple of graham crackers through the food processor.

For the Quince Zinfindel Glaze:

  • 1 Cup Quince Paste (available in specialty stores- usually in the cheese section)
  • 1/2-1 Cup of Zinfindel (you could substitute merlot or a cabernet sauvignon)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the crust until well blended. You should be able to “pack” the crust so that it holds firm; if not, add more melted butter. Lightly grease the cheesecake pan. Divide the crust between the individual cups in the cheesecake pan; the crust should fill the cups about 1/3 of the way.

Add all of the filling ingredients to a medium bowl and mix until well combined (I use a hand held electric mixer). Divide the mixture between the mini cheesecake cups (each cup should be about 2/3 full). Bake for 14-18 minutes until cheesecakes are well set. Allow cheesecakes to cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

For the glaze: combine the quince paste and wine in a saucepan and heat over medium, stirring constantly, until the paste is melted and blended with wine. Continue to cook over medium until sauce is sufficiently reduced.

Drizzle cheesecakes with the quince glaze and serve.

 

 

Chipotle Pumpkin Soup

Chipotle Pumpkin Soup

I served this at my Wicked Wine Tasting, but it would be a great option for Thanksgiving. Because the wine tasting was all about tasting wines paired with foods, I used really small (ramekin size) bowls. What I discovered, however, is that a small amount of soup is perfect because you can still serve other foods. Not that a big bowl of this soup wouldn’t be great, but I do like the idea of more of a tasting size portion of soup. I have a great creamy pumpkin soup recipe which is rich and decadent, but I wanted to do something a little different for this wine tasting. The chipotle flavor pairs so well with the pumpkin and there’s just the right amount of heat in the back of this soup. I served it out of a hollowed out pumpkin (which I put in a chafing dish and it actually stayed warm). This was very well received at the wine tasting and I promised to post the recipe. I apologize for the lack of photos – I had so much going on that I really didn’t have time to photograph during the cooking process, but this recipe is so straightforward that the photos aren’t necessary.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-6 Cups of Chicken Stock (or broth)
  • 45 oz. (3 small cans or 1 large and one small) Canned Pumpkin
  • 1 Medium Sweet Onion – chopped
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic – minced
  • 2-3 Chipotle Peppers (canned in adobo) – chopped
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp. Fresh Oregano (or 1 tsp. dried) – chopped
  • 2 tsp. Olive Oil
  • 2-3 tsp. Salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic, cumin, and chipotle peppers and saute for an additional minute. Add pumpkin and 4 Cups of chicken stock. Add oregano and salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes, transfer soup to a blender and blend until the onions and peppers are incorporated and the soup is smooth. Add more chicken stock if the stock is too thick. Season with additional salt and pepper as necessary and add cayenne pepper if more heat is desired. Serve with garnishes of creme fraiche and cilantro. If desired, serve out of a cleaned out pumpkin.

Chipotle Pumpkin Soup served out of a Pumpkin

Short Rib Goulash with Pumpkin and Parsnips

Short Rib Beef Goulash with Pumpkin and Parsnips – served over Gorgonzola Polenta

I served this at my recent wine tasting and it was a huge hit. The goulash starts with short ribs because the flavor from the short ribs is great, but they have a lot of fat and only a little meat, so I supplement with beef stew meat. I actually made this over a two day period – braising the short ribs on day one and then refrigerating over night so that the fat congealed and was easy to skim off. I cooked the stew meat the second day and pulled the meat from the short ribs.  If you don’t want to hassle with the pumpkin (it is challenging to peel and cut), you can substitute butternut squash. I love parsnips, so I added those along with a wild mushroom blend. I served this over a creamy gorgonzola polenta, but it would be great over mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles. This serves 8-10, but you could easily cut the recipe in half.

INGREDIENTS:

  •  4 Lbs. Beef Short Ribs (bone-in)
  • 4 Lbs. Beef Stew Meat
  • 2 Sugar Pumpkins or 2 Acorn Squash – peeled and cubed
  • 1 Large Sweet Onion – chopped
  • 4 Large Carrots – peeled and chopped
  • 3 Celery Stalks – chopped
  • 4 Parsnips – peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3-5 Cloves of Garlic – finely chopped
  • 3 8 Oz. Packages of Baby Bellas (or other good mushroom)- chopped
  • 2-3 Cups Red Wine
  • 4 Cups Beef Broth
  • 2-4 TBS. of Paprika
  • Fresh herb bunch (Rosemary, Parsley, Oregano, and thyme – or your favorite mixture – tied off with kitchen string)
  • Flour (for dredging meat)
  • 2-4 TBS. of Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Corn Starch – optional
  • Red Pepper Flakes – optional

INSTRUCTIONS:

Season short ribs and stew meat generously with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, add short ribs to pot and brown well on all sides – remove from pan and set aside. Repeat this process for the stew meat. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and mushrooms and saute until all vegetables are tender. Return short ribs to the pot, add the red wine,  beef broth. herb bundle and paprika (and red pepper flakes if using) and braise over low heat for 3-4 hours until meat is very tender. Remove herb bundle and discard.Remove short ribs from the pot and allow to cool enough to work with. Pull the meat off of the short ribs discarding the bones, fat, and any tough tissue. Return meat to the pot and add pumpkin (or squash) and parsnips. Cook for another 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Skim the fat from the top (if you have time to let the goulash cool in the refrigerator, it is easy to skim the fat from the top). Taste for seasoning and add more paprika and salt and pepper if desired. If you like a thicker style goulash, you can a couple of tablespoons of corn starch with water to make a slurry and add to the goulash. Serve over polenta, mashed potatoes, or wide noodles.

 

Wicked Wine Tasting

The Witch’s Lair

Recently, I hosted a “Wicked Wine Tasting” featuring Sterling Wines. I had just under forty guests, and I think everyone had a great time. I created each invitation individually and hand delivered them. Some guests received a broomstick which was suggested to serve as transportation to the party, others received a “poison” apple and were told that the antidote would only be available at the party. Other guests received a potion bottle with spell instructions that included gathering in a forest (my town name includes Woods) with other relatively cool mortals after dark (the party started at 7 PM). A few lucky guests received a bottle of poison (a single serving liquor bottle which I covered with a vintage poison sticker).

Poison Apple Invitation

Poison Bottle Invitation

As for the menu, I served a lot of hot and cold appetizers, one main dish and several desserts. Each menu item was paired with a particular Sterling wine, and the wines were on the table next to the complimentary food. All guests were greeted out front by the Butler (Bryan) and were given a wine glass with a unique vintage poison label wine charm. They were also poured a glass of Sterling Chardonnay with a small piece of dry ice to give it that smoking, bubbling effect.

The Butler Greeting Guests and Serving Bubbling Chardonnay from the Cauldron

I served a cheese tray which was a bit of a departure from my standard because I used all well aged cheeses (labeled “rotten cheese”). Beside the cheese tray I served a Sterling Pinot Grigio. Some other appetizers included “devilled” eggs, which were made to resemble bloodshot eyeballs, escargot (simply labeled “snails”), shrimp cocktail (labeled “crustaceons”), chicken salad in Belgian endive, Caviar Moons, and bacon wrapped potatoes. Those were paired with a Sterling Sauvignon Blanc. For the main course I served a short rib beef goulash with pumpkin and parsnips (labeled “graveyard ghoulash”). Guests really enjoyed the chipotle pumpkin soup which I served with a Sterling Meritage (one of my favorites). I also served a gorgonzola polenta to go with the goulash. This was paired with a 2009 Sterling Syrah. Desserts included a Lizzie Borden Cake (red velvet) and Cabernet cupcakes (sounds weird, but they are really good); the obvious choice of wine for these desserts was a Sterling Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lizzie Borden Cake and Cabernet Cupcakes

I also made mini pumpkin cheesecakes with a quince zinfindel glaze; these were served the Sterling Zinfindel.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Quince Zinfindel Glaze

Everyone was very impressed with the “little details” around the house, including the outside. I think we may be the only house in our town that has a full-sized cauldron in the front yard. I decided I wanted a creepy tree in the yard. I found a dead tree on a strip of public land and Bryan cut it down for me. Luckily, it was close to home because I had to ride in the back of the truck and hold the base because the tree wouldn’t fit in the truck. However, in my opinion, the finest additions to the outdoor scape were the handcrafted “witch’s chairs” and benches that  Bryan made. Inside, I swapped out all of our regular family photos with creepy pictures of bats, snakes, graveyards, wicked looking trees, and, of course, witches. I even swapped out some of our normal artwork with creepy mirrors and pictures. I draped the kitchen and living room windows with black fabric for valances and puts cobwebs everywhere. I had skulls, snakes, mice, spiders and potions placed all around.

The candles were all black and served as the only source of light other than the roaring fire.

I didn’t have too many decorating options for the buffet table because it was packed with food and serving dishes. I did serve the chipotle pumpkin soup of a good sized pumpkin which I set in a chafing dish (believe it or not, the soup did stay hot this way). I also served the chorizo con queso dip out of a pumpkin (featured in my last post).

We set-up a tent outside with alternative beverages for those who don’t like wine (who doesn’t like wine?), but the wine was definitely the hit, particularly because it was paired with the food. We also had a firepit outside and people enjoyed hanging out there (it get’s hot inside with nearly 40 people). While I wouldn’t normally turn the tv on during a party, our Detroit Tigers were playing their first home game of the World Series, so we had to at least check-in on the game on occasion. After the Tigers lost, those of us who remained (probably 15 of us) gathered for a crazy game of celebrities. For those of you who have never played, you should look it up on-line; it is a blast. At the end of the night, I was able to finally read everything that had been written on the bathroom wall (I found this great chalkboard paper that sticks to the wall); I would say a good time was had by all.

I am submitting an entry for the Sterling Vineyards Ultimate Host Contest; hopefully my party was cool enough to earn me the title of Ultimate Host. Regardless of the outcome, I had a great time with great friends and great wine and food.

You can check-out the movie I made as my entry for the contest:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fi_mKWemWc&feature=youtu.be

Chorizo Con Queso Dip

Chorizo Con Queso Dip

Phew…the Halloween party was a huge success, and I have great photos and video to submit for the contest I am entering. That’s my way for apologizing for a recent lack of posting – I know that’s taboo for a blogger. I have promised guests that I will post all recipes (with the exception of deviled eggs because I can’t commit to a recipe – I base them on taste), so I am starting with one of the appetizer dishes I served. I don’t have in-process pictures, but this is really straightforward, so I will just post the recipe. I served this in a sugar pumpkin (instructions follow), but this would be delicious any time of year and could be cooked in any ovenproof baking dish. You can adjust the spice, but I think this was perfect. Reviewers commented that the dip was like a combination of tacos with con queso. (Serves 12-15 as an appetizer).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Lb. Ground Chorizo Sausage*
  • 4 Cups Shredded Chihuahua Cheese (can substitute mozzerella)
  • 2 Cups Mexican Cheese Blend (4 Cheese blend – NOT Taco cheese because it contains spices)
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper (remove seeds and membranes for less heat) – finely chopped
  • 4 Oz. Can of Chopped Green Chiles
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cumin
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup of Flour
  • 2-3 Cups Chicken Broth
  • Chopped Fresh Cilantro – for garnish

*If you can’t find loose ground chorizo, you can substitute chorizo that is cased – just chop it into small pieces. You could also substitute regular breakfast sausage, but you will have to increase your Mexican spices.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium saute pan, cook chorizo over medium to high heat, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain off excess fat from the pan. Add jalapeno, green chiles and spices to pan, and cook until jalapeno is tender. Add flour and cook until the flour starts to brown (3-5 minutes). Add 2 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in all of the cheese, stirring until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Check the consistency and, if necessary, add additional chicken broth to thin the dip- the dip should have a creamy texture. Pour cheese mixture into a baking dish (use a baking dish you would serve out of) or an oven-proof bowl. Bake for 20-30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown on top. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.

If you would like to serve out of a pumpkin, cut the top off of a 3 Lb. sugar pumpkin and remove the seeds and pulp from the pumpkin. Place the pumpkin on a baking dish, fill with the con queso, cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour (until pumpkin starts to brown and become tender). Do not overcook, or your pumpkin will be too soft to move to a serving plate. Remove foil and bake for another 10-20 minutes until cheese dip is bubbling and browned on top.