Queso Fundido with Chorizo

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And I’m BACK in the game …

Is it any surprise that the catalyst that finally got me back in the kitchen was football season? It shouldn’t be, given that football Sundays are my favorite part of fall (October 6 aside) and game-day recipes are their own subsection on this site. With fantasy season underway, I finally had my impetus to resume cooking.

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Queso fundido is a traditional Mexican dish that is basically a perfect combination of melted cheese and spicy chorizo. It’s a huge party-pleaser (how could it not be?) and feeds a serious crowd, making it the perfect football food. Plus it’s easy to make and, if you’re grating the cheese by hand, gives you a serious arm workout, which is ideal when you’re skipping a 15-mile training run to cook and have barely spent 0.2 seconds in the kitchen all summer.

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After basically an entire summer of not cooking, this queso fundido was a nice little reminder of the magic that can be created in the kitchen … feels good to be home!

Queso Fundido with Chorizo
Adapted from Melissa Clark
Serves 4-6 generously

– 7 ounces fresh chorizo, casings removed

– 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, diced

– 1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced

– salt and pepper, to taste

– 2 scallions, finely chopped

– 8 ounces pepper jack or Monterey jack cheese, grated

– 8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

– for serving: tortilla chips, crusty bread, cut vegetables, etc.

1) Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet* on medium-high. Add the chorizo and cook until browned, breaking into small crumbles. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

2) Add the onions and bell pepper to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper, then saute until the vegetables have softened and are beginning to brown. Let the skillet cool to room temperature.

3) Preheat the oven to 450F. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chorizo, peppers and onions and scallions. In a separate bowl, combine both of the cheeses. Scatter half of the cheese in the bottom of the cooled skillet. Layer the chorizo-vegetable mixture over the cheese, then top with the remaining cheese.

4) Bake the queso for 7-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and has started to brown. Serve immediately, with tortilla chips, hunks of bread or whatever else you can get your hands on.

*If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, use a regular skillet to cook the chorizo and vegetables, then use a 2-quart baking dish to bake the queso.

Help!

Yet another post that comes without a recipe! I’ve been completely flattened by end-of-summer ennui, where it’s too hot to do anything other than just lay there. I’d like to pretend I’ve been distracted by important thoughts or exciting adventures, but one amazing wedding aside, I’ve basically done nothing with my life. (Well, to be completely accurate, I’ve done this with my life. Seriously, download this app now and you’ll never be bored again.)

Worst of all, I’ve been completely uninspired in the kitchen. Forget cooking, which has been shunted aside completely — I’ve barely been interested in eating, making it impossible to figure out what I want and even *gasp* going hours without thinking about my next meal. It’s especially frustrating since the grocery stores and farmers’ markets are bursting with summer produce: peaches and berries and zucchini and peppers and tomatoes and nothing is pushing me to cook.

So, I turn to you friends: What are you cooking? What’s inspiring you? How do you deal with bouts of cooking listlessness or the dog days of summer as a whole?

HELP ME. Please.

Marathon Training: The Beginning

I may have mentioned recently that I signed up for the New York City Marathon on November 1. It was a weird fit of fancy, borne out of a realization that half-marathons, while still (very) challenging, were no longer impossible to finish. (Why instead of going down the “hey, maybe I’ll try to improve my half times” I went down the “let’s run even further” road, I don’t know.)

I used to live near the finish of the New York City Marathon, and now live right where the runners enter Manhattan for the last leg of the race, so I’ve seen first-hand how thrilling the marathon is. And after carefully considering it for months a week, I decided that the best way to push myself out of my running ennui would be to trek 26.2 miles through the city I’ve called home for nine(!!!) years.

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Though I impulsively signed up in April, I’ve only started training in earnest in the past few weeks. And so far, it’s been rough. The blazing heat and humidity have made it almost impossible to run comfortably at any hour of day or night. I’ve come to regard 75 degrees with 60% humidity as ideal weather, which means all of my runs have been slow, sweat-soaked slogs through Central Park. (Let’s not talk about the water fountain situation–or lack thereof–on the East River. God I miss the Hudson River running paths. Even Jersey is an exciting view when the alternative is Queens … )

One weird bright spot I discovered recently? Juice Press, a fresh cold-pressed juice company, offers runners free green juices on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and noon (aka when most humans are out doing their long runs). All you need to secure your juice: take a photo during your run, mention @juicepress and tag your Twitter or Instagram post with #willrunforjuice. Then hit up your local Juice Press store (if you’re lucky like me, it will be directly on your way home from Central Park) and claim your prize!

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I tried it out last Saturday, and it was literally that easy. Since their juices are $11 a bottle and therefore not something I’d drink otherwise (even my profligate spending has a limit), it’s a great way to try different juices and get some much-needed nutrients in after a long run. I got the Doctor Green juice, made with kale, red apples, pineapple, lemon and ginger. I’ll eat/drink lemon-ginger anything, so I really liked this one, though it was a touch on the sweet side. I will definitely be trying more, and if you find yourself running on a Saturday morning, try it out!

The other huge part of this marathon dream? FUNDRAISING. I’m raising money for Team for Kids, an organization that helps kids from low-income communities develop healthy habits and build self-esteem through running programs. I have to raise a pretty steep amount in order to run — $2,620 (EEEK!). It feels very unnatural for me to ask other people for money (is anyone comfortable doing that?) but I’m going to need to kick it into gear ASAP in order to meet my goal.*

I did get profiled by Team for Kids recently, which is the first time I’ve been interviewed for anything ever. Tried my best to not sound stupid, but I’ll let you be the judge.

I’ll be updating you guys sporadically with updates from training, but I’ll also be posting frequent updates on To The Finish Line, a Tumblr I created so that I don’t bore you guys incessantly with weird training stories. But who doesn’t want to hear all about my chafing concerns … Continue reading

Feta-Mint Meatballs

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As evidenced by the only-two-posts-last-month situation, it’s been a really busy summer. I’ve been away every weekend in July, and when I have been here, there have been rooftops and baseball games and beaches to visit.

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So you know that only an amazing recipe would have me running to the kitchen. These feta-mint meatballs are exactly that: amazing. Simple to make and full of flavor, they’re just as delicious on their own (perhaps with toothpicks for serving as appetizers?) as they are topping a summery orzo or quinoa salad. While the original recipe (from one of my favorite food bloggers!) keeps it simple, relying solely on the feta and mint to flavor the meatballs, I went H.A.M. with spices: cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cayenne and smoked paprika all go in.

The end result is meaty and minty and faintly spiced and 100% worth turning on the stove for. And when it’s 90 degrees out and there are rooftops and beaches and pools to frequent, that’s a high high compliment. Continue reading

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

Lest you think I only eat dessert, worry not: sometimes I drink coffee too. And in the summer, that caffeine habit becomes EXPENSIVE. Daily $4 iced coffees are not a sustainable practice, and so I bring you homemade cold-brewed iced coffee. Don’t say I never did anything nice for you.

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All coffee-making follows the same process: water extracts flavors and chemical compounds from beans. Hot water not only speeds up that process, it also cooks the beans a bit, changing some of the flavor profiles of the coffee (h/t NYT).

A lot of iced coffee is made by brewing hot coffee and then letting it cool to room temperature. You could do this, but I find the resulting coffee to be pretty acidic (hot water extracts more acid than cold would) and pretty weak — since you’re using hot-coffee standard amounts of water to brew the coffee and then adding more water (in the form of ice) to cool it, the coffee ends up extra-diluted.

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But cold-brewing extracts flavor from the coffee bean at a slower rate and leaves the original flavors relatively intact. And since I’m already not a fan of light, acidic roasts (I like my coffee dark and bold and chocolate-y — surprise, surprise), cold brew’s purported “mild, smooth and just a tad sweet” flavors seemed right up my alley.

And now that I’ve made my own cold brew, I’m kicking myself for the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on often mediocre iced coffees in the past. This recipe is so easy a child could handle it, and the end result is a smooth, balanced brew that I want to drink all day every day. And since all it requires is standard ground coffee and water, I can actually afford that. #WIN Continue reading