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Black Bean and Beef Chili
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Black Bean and Beef Chili

With Fall on the doorstep, the morning temperatures here have been dipping into the 30s and honestly, it’s been lovely!  This weather has also got us craving (and I mean craving) cold-weather foods and I’m the first one to say, “Bring on the chili!”  Actually, when I was making up our menu for this week last Friday morning, I sort of had an epiphany when I realized, with my winter slippers already on and a hot cup of coffee sitting next to me, that it’s time for cozy food again.  What an exciting moment in a Fall-favoring foodie’s life!  So this black bean and beef chili made it to the menu and the weather hasn’t disappointed us yet this week.  It seems as if Fall is the only season that “knows” it’s place here in New England – Winter lasts well into Spring, sometimes it feels like we miss Spring and jump directly into Summer, and Winter often feels like it starts in November.  Fall…you’re right on time!

Black Bean and Beef Chili

We made this chili once last winter and decided that it deserves a place of honor next to my turkey chili.  It’s really fantastic…for a beef chili.  Believe it or not, this was our first beef chili – it’s been one of Kyle’s long-standing, yet never-fulfilled requests and I can assure you that he is a happy camper with this recipe.  I was mainly afraid of beef chili being greasy but the use of very lean ground beef in this recipe remedies this issue…which made me a very happy camper.  What’s so cool about this recipe is that you’ll purée one can of the black beans with the tomatoes and this mixture will thicken the chili as it cooks.  The chili ends up thick and hearty without too much heat despite the various types of chile powders.  I can’t think of a better meal to welcome in my favorite season…and paired with a few scoopable Fritos, I’d say it’s pretty darn close to perfection.

Restaurant Style Queso Dip
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I’m sure I’m not the only person out there who is always looking for the ever elusive queso dip that we all love from our local Mexican restaurants.  As far as the easy options go in order to make it at home, there are two typical options: the jarred stuff and the block stuff to mix with salsa or Rotel.  But you know what?  This homemade version isn’t any more difficult than making queso dip with block cheese and in my opinion (and not just my opinion), it’s 100x better than either the block cheese version or the quick and dirty jarred stuff.  A quick sauté of some diced onions and fresh pepper, melt in some shredded cheese then add some cream, tomato, and cilantro and you’ve got homemade restaurant style queso dip!

Restaurant Style Queso Dip

The key to this recipe is the addition of deli-sliced American cheese (don’t judge!).  I also threw in some pepper Jack and provolone partly because they both melt really well but mostly because I didn’t have enough American in the house when I made this on a whim last weekend – my modifications to the original recipe are below.  Once heated through (and thoroughly stirred while it’s being heated), this recipe yields a nice, creamy queso dip.  As you can see, it’s also the perfect topping for some chili nachos (game time, anyone??) and we also topped a couple of steamed hot dogs with the queso for dinner one night this week as well.  And wouldn’t this queso be an awesome way to make homemade cheese fries as well?  You bet!  Overall, this is a definite winner and you certainly won’t find any other queso dip in my house from here on out.