Restaurant re-creations: Go ‘out to eat’ at home

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Ever go to a restaurant, order an amazing dish and wish you could make it at home? Well, that was the inspiration for this column. These recipes are based on dishes I loved at various restaurants and re-created in my kitchen. I’ve made an easy Enchilada Dip and a heavenly Blue Cheese & Bacon Dip with Green Apples. I’ve also created my version of Pimento Mac n Cheese and a fantastic White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake. Enjoy! 

Enchilada Dip
Makes 4 servings.

Enchilada DIp

1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
2/3 cup salsa
2 ounces cream cheese
1 (4-ounce) packet prepared cheese sauce (like Velveeta)
3/4 teaspoon taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken (can use rotisserie), chopped or shredded 
1 green onion, sliced
Tortilla chips

Place enchilada sauce, refried beans, salsa, cream cheese, cheese sauce and taco seasoning in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir continuously, and cook until ingredients melt together. Stir in chicken. Garnish with green onions, and serve with tortilla chips.

Note: If you cannot find prepared cheese sauce in packets, use 1 cup cubed processed cheese (like Velveeta). 

Blue Cheese & Bacon Dip with Green Apples
Makes 3 servings.

Blue Cheese & Bacon Dip with Green Apples

4 ounces cream cheese, softened 
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup real bacon pieces
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup cheddar cheese,
shredded
2 Granny Smith apples, sliced 

Heat oven to 400. In a small baking dish, stir together cream cheese, mayonnaise, green onions, bacon, blue cheese and garlic powder until well-combined. Top with cheddar cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until bubbling. Serve with sliced apples.

Note: This dip can easily be doubled for company.

Pimento Mac n Cheese
Makes 6-8 servings.

Pimento Mac n Cheese

2 1/4 cups macaroni, uncooked
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 1/3 cups prepared pimento cheese spread
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Prepare macaroni according to package directions. While it cooks, heat butter in a skillet; add flour and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring. Add salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in half-and-half until incorporated. Stir in pimento cheese until it melts. When cooked, drain pasta and add to sauce. Add cheddar cheese, and stir to coat pasta. Serve.

Note: If you undercook pasta and don’t notice until you’ve added it to the sauce, don’t fret. Sprinkle butter crackers or breadcrumbs over top. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of melted butter, and bake for 20-30 minutes in a 350-degree oven. The pasta will continue to cook, and the dish will have a crispy crust.

White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake

Strawberry sauce:

White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake

1 (16-ounce) bag frozen strawberries 
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch 

Cheesecake:

2 (8-ounce) containers of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2.2 ounces white chocolate 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (6-inch) prepared chocolate cookie pie crust
Fresh raspberries (optional)

Make strawberry sauce (which needs time to cook and cool) by adding strawberries, water and sugar to a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until strawberries get soft. Remove pan from heat; carefully place mixture in a blender, and blend until smooth. Return mixture to pan, increase heat, and whisk in cornstarch until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Heat oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until combined. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well. 

Using a microwave, melt white chocolate 20 seconds at a time. Stir in between, so chocolate does not burn. Add melted chocolate to cream cheese mixture. Add vanilla extract, and beat again.

Pour half the cream cheese mixture into pie crust. In a bowl, stir together 3/4 cup cream cheese mixture and 1/2 cup strawberry sauce; add to crust, and swirl with a knife. Top with remaining cream cheese mixture, and swirl with a knife. Bake for 40 minutes or until the edge looks golden and the center has a tiny bit of wiggle (it will set). Allow it to cool for two hours before refrigerating for four hours or more. When serving, add raspberries, if desired, and drizzle sauce over cheesecake. 

Note: Leftover strawberry sauce is wonderful on waffles, pound cake and oatmeal or added to a smoothie.

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