Fancy people beer cheese nachos

Did you know Martha Stewart puts beer in her nacho cheese sauce? I didn’t know she partied like that. Even my mom likes Martha Stewart. I just remembered her mostly for being a felon on house arrest, and less for her recipes and general domestication guidelines. Perhaps its because her conviction and sentencing happened in 2004, at the beginning of my feral late teens. I didn’t think about cooking much in 2004. I thought about banging twenty-somethings and sleeping through high school and my idealism reigned superior to others’ views on the world. Everything was an injustice. Martha Stewart was just somewhere in the line of Big Names Who Do Stupid Shit, But Not as Stupid as George Bush, who was elected that year for the second time. I was sixteen.

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So when I googled “nacho cheese sauce recipe,” and Martha Stewart popped up as one of the top ten results, I took the bait. Wasn’t she also famous for cooking or doilies or something? I’d also seen a lost-to-memory article of about a million and five ways to use cauliflower in every day dishes that a friend had sent me this morning, and an idea was born.

I roasted the cauliflower while I prepared the rest at 400F on a cookie sheet, about 5-10 minutes and flipping over for another 5-10 minutes. I assembled as I went: blue corn chips on the plate. When the cauliflower was done, I just added that to the stack.

The cheese sauce recipe I modified quite a bit, since I wasn’t feeding a house full of ten people and this was a main dish for one person. I added about a tablespoon of olive oil to the saucepan, and heated it to medium. I added the teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of chili powder, and a half-teaspoon of cayenne as the directions called for, but left out the jalapenos and onions (those will come later). Then, I added about a third of the only gluten-free beer I had on hand — a Pilsner, not a Lager, but who cares? I saved the rest of the beer for sipping on. I added about 3/4 of a carton of heavy whipping cream and then, later than the directions call for, added about three tablespoons of gluten-free flour and whisked it together.

It was fun to watch the carbonation leave the beer! I felt like I’d been let in on an adult cooking secret. I cooked those things together for about three minutes on medium high, just until the sauce thickened and I kept stirring. I brought the temperature down to medium-low, and added about two and a half cups of shredded cheddar cheese slowly. I didn’t want the whole mess to clump up and to have to start over, so I waited for each handful of cheese to melt and integrate before stirring in the next. I completely skipped adding in a second kind of cheese, or any tomatoes.

Finally, I poured the cheese over the cauliflower and chips, tossed on some pickled jalapenos and pickled onions, some leftover black beans, topped with a big dollop of sour cream and a pile of delicious cilantro, and voila! See? The whole thing took me maybe 15 minutes to make, which was great — I had to head out the door shortly after I inhaled this delicious meal.

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This is definitely one of those meals I’ll end up repeating, over and over again. I love nachos, and my favorites always include the best cheese sauces and lots of guacamole or sour cream. At heart, I’m a three-year-old, and I just like dipping and condiments. I’d never considered throwing beer into the mix, and had no idea how to make a cheese sauce. Upon tasting the whole thing, I decided the recipe I’d altered could stand on its own for beer cheese soup — which I tucked away for a party about a week later.

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Leftovers: steak salad

This is my dog, patiently waiting for her chance at a trimmed piece of steak while working on her down-stay command for five minutes. “Down-stay” is the toughest for this double-chin Miniature Pinscher. My dogs often help me eat the more healthful leftovers and vegetable scraps as a supplement to their high-quality, high-end dog food. I sometimes wonder why humans can’t get their children to eat certain vegetables; I just told my dogs that every vegetable they encountered was delicious, and in an attempt to please me, the little garbage disposals ate anything I put in front of them as puppies, especially teething carrots. As adult dogs, they stare me down for raw broccoli stems and wolf down the tougher parts of apples.

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Salads are…kind of boring to talk about, huh? Still, I had a leftover strip steak from the night before, and tossed it in a pan for a few minutes on each side to warm. Chopped it, tossed in some greens, added raw mushrooms and pickled onions, and dressed it in blue cheese from a local shop. Bam. Done. Three minutes. Lazy, leftovers cooking, ahoy!

I mostly just wanted to write about my dogs.

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Leftovers: egg tacos

I was so proud of the green chile I’d made a few days prior for enchiladas, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use the leftovers before they spoiled.

And I’m gonna give you an important little secret: everything is great in a taco. Corn tortillas turn leftovers into a meal that almost seems like it happened on purpose. Tacos hide my laziness. My usual taco is some sort of protein, filled with some sort of vegetables or fruit, and then some sort of fat. In fact, I’ll probably post fewer and fewer of the tacos and salads I make for leftovers, because it seems awfully redundant and it’s hard enough to stay on top of this blog. I can only say so many thoughtful things about tacos…

I almost always season my eggs with black or white pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder. I just assembled these tacos with some miscellaneous greens, “adventurous eggs,” pickled onions, cilantro, warmed green chile, and grated smoked gruyere.

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Sweet chicken and savory sweet potato

I didn’t feel like cooking one bit after having been at the barn and dealing with the really, really cold weather on Thursday late at night. Baking feels like cooking, except it takes far less time to accomplish a great meal and allows for multitasking. I had a package of on-sale chicken thighs, and stumbled on this recipe for savory sweet potatoes. In my never-ending accidental quest to eat only Latino-inspired food and sweet potatoes one hundred ways, this recipe fit perfectly and I halved it to serve one.

I’m always one to drown my mashed sweet potatoes in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and agave. It’s like vegetable candy! Using thyme and garlic seemed new and unknown to my sweet potato palate, but turned out well. Except…the oil on my hands smelled awful. I’d never used fresh thyme before — only the ground spice-jar stuff — and hadn’t expected it. I love the oils of rosemary and basil on my fingers that linger long after my meal, but thyme just smelled like animal piss. It nearly ruined the dish for me, and next time I think I’ll substitute rosemary. Rosemary is still quite the savory and fragrant herb, and would be a nice substitute. It took me several hand-washings in grease-cutting dish soap to rid my hands of the thyme oils. Stubborn little suckers.

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The chicken was too easy: I threw it in the oven for 25 minutes, about halfway through cooking the foil-wrapped sweet potato. A couple squirts of my favorite gluten-free barbecue sauce, flip (so it doesn’t stick to the glass dish), and a couple more squirts. While I did this on three of the chicken thighs, on the other half of the pan, I roasted the chicken plain with a light coating of olive oil to be used the next day in making green chile enchiladas. I flipped the chicken halfway through cooking, and voila — easy, juicy, baked chicken. No slaving over a stove required.

While I let the chicken and the sweet potato cool off just a bit, I whipped up a jar of pickled onions to be used over the next few weeks in salads and as a topper to entrees and quick tacos. I used a very basic, ingrained recipe for pickling with no variations:

In an old spaghetti jar (recycling!), mix one cup water, 1 tbsp white sugar, 1.5 tbsp salt, and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar. Put the lid on and shake a bunch. Cut up an entire red onion, usually done in thin slices, and shove as many of them as you can into the jar. Shake again to get the liquid into the smaller spaces, and leave it in the fridge for at least a half day before using, but no longer than 10-15 days.

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