Whenever my out-of-town friends land in Austin, it seems like they’re united in a single-minded mission: to eat as much Tex-Mex as humanly possible while they’re here. Recently, while briefing one of them on the merits of various breakfast taco spots, I was shocked to learn that she’d never heard of queso. Wha?! In Texas, queso is as ubiquitous as hot dogs in New York, and everyone I know loves it… and also feels a little guilty after eating it. More on that later, but first: the inspiration behind today’s recipe. When Garden of Eatin’ invited us to be part of their #ChippedChallenge, the immediate reaction from everyone on our team was, “I am obsessed with those chips!!” So of course I had to try five different flavors of them, and then quickly became obsessed, too.
Our#ChippedChallenge was to take a classic dish and reimagine it as something lighter with more natural ingredients. I decided to help queso get over its naughty reputation as a “faux” food (traditional home versions are often made with Velveeta and canned Rotel tomatoes) by creating a version that’s made with all real, wholesome ingredients… and that’s even more delicious. I’m a big believer that there’s a place in every healthy diet for all kinds of food, and that (barring allergies) nothing needs to be strictly off-limits. That includes cheese, when it’s real high-quality cheese, and chips, when they’re made using organic, non-GMO ingredients like Garden of Eatin’ does.
My picks for favorite chip flavors to dip into this queso? (from top) Pumpkin, Blue Corn, Sweet Potato, & Kale. They’re also amazing dipped into salsa and are strong enough to hold up to hummus, as I discovered during yesterday’s pre-dinner snacking session…The first step in making this queso is to prep all your ingredients. Once you start sautéing, the process moves really quickly, and (as you can see above), the cheese melts super fast. You want to serve this baby right away while it’s still hot! The key to giving this queso an unusually bright, zippy flavor is all in the toppings: I chopped up tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and cilantro for a crunchy fresh finish that balances out the cheese’s creaminess. You’ll want to get a little bit of avocado with each dip of your chip — it’s an amazing flavor combo with the cheese. Serve it in a pretty heatproof bowl surrounded with a few different flavors of Garden of Eatin’ chips, and a few veggie sticks if desired. It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and definitely a sophisticated take on a food that’s usually thought of as relatively junky (but that everyone secretly loves.) A margarita would also be a good accompaniment here, especially if you’re planning any March Madness parties.Hop on over to the Garden of Eatin’ Facebook page to play the #ChippedChallenge yourself and win some amazing prizes. And, just for kicks: I want to hear in the comments if you’ve never tried queso! (I’m still in awe that this is possible.)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 ½ cup white cheddar - shredded
- 1 1/2 cup Chihuahua cheese – shredded (you could also sub Monterey jack here)
- 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- ½ small red onion, chopped, divided
- 2 small tomatoes, diced
- ½ cup cilantro
- 1 small avocado, seeded and diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Garden of Eatin’ chips
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add jalapenos, chopped red onion (reserving 1 tablespoon for garnish), and ½ teaspoon salt and stir over medium for about 4 minutes until onion is softened.
- Sprinkle the flour and cumin into pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer, then cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to thicken.
- While the mixture is simmering combine chopped tomatoes, remaining 1 tablespoon of chopped red onion, chopped avocado, and half the cilantro. Set aside.
- To queso, add remaining half of cilantro and both cheeses, and stir until melted and well-blended. Transfer to serving dish and top with tomato and onion mixture. Serve with Garden of Eatin’ chips.