Jalapeño Popper Burgers

Start to finish: 30 minutes
Impresses: 4

1 pound 90/10 ground beef
1 cup bacon, cooked and chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
4-ounce can roasted jalapeños, drained
4 brioche buns
4 lettuce leaves
8 slices tomato
8 slices red onion

Heat grill to medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, combine beef, bacon, Worcestershire, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Form mixture into 4 patties. 

Grill 5 minutes before flipping and grilling an additional 3–5 minutes, until juices run clear.

While grilling, combine cream cheese and jalapeño together in a small bowl. Set aside.

In final minutes of grilling, add buns, cut-side down, to the grill to warm.

Remove patties and buns from the grill.

To assemble: Place lettuce, tomato and onion on the bottom bun, add patty and top with bun smeared with a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese mixture.

Serve immediately.

Blackberry-Feta Crostinis

Start to finish: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Impresses: 8

2 pints blackberries, rinsed
1 lemon, juiced
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
1 French baguette, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
8-ounce tub whipped cream cheese
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Add blackberries, lemon juice and zest, thyme and sugar to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. 

Using a wooden spoon, stir and muddle the berries while they reduce. Bring to a simmer until thickened, about 7 minutes. 

Let cool completely before transferring to a jar and storing in the fridge until ready to use.

Heat oven broiler and place baguette slices onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toast about 3 minutes, until golden.

Combine cream cheese and feta cheese in a medium-sized bowl.

Schmear a healthy amount of cheese mixture onto toasted baguette slices and top with blackberry compote.

Serve immediately.

Churro Cheesecake

Start to finish: 1 hour 30 minutes
Impresses: 1 9-inch cheesecake

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), melted
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1¼ cups sugar, divided
4 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup Mexican crema
4 eggs

Heat oven to 325 F.

Mix together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, cinnamon and ¼ cup sugar in a large bowl until combined. 

Press graham mixture into the bottom of the springform pan, using the bottom of a measuring cup to evenly distribute and press into the sides. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together remaining sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and cinnamon on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4–5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and add in crema. Beat to combine. 

With mixer on medium-low speed, add in eggs one at a time until combined.

Pour mixture into pan over crust and bake 50–60 minutes or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before topping with raspberries and slicing.

Special tools: 9-inch springform pan

Fig Pop Tarts

For the pop tarts:
1 package prepared pie dough
4 ounces whipped cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons fig jam

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar

For the pop tarts:
Heat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unroll each sheet of pie dough and trim the edges to make a rectangle. Using a sharp knife, slice each sheet into 6 equal rectangles. (Tip: Cut in half lengthwise and then into thirds.)

Combine cream cheese and jam in a small bowl.

Dollop 1–2 teaspoons of cream cheese mixture in the center of 6 of the pie dough rectangles.

Using your finger, brush the edges with a little bit of water before topping each rectangle with another piece of pie dough. 

Using a fork, crimp the edges to seal. Cut a few lines in the top to vent.

Place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart and bake 12–15 minutes or until golden.

For the glaze:
While pop tarts bake, combine lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl by whisking together.

Once pop tarts are done, transfer to a cooling rack and drizzle with a good amount of glaze before serving.

Crescent Cinnamon Rolls

Start to finish: 40 minutes
Makes: 8 rolls

For the cinnamon rolls:
1 can crescent rolls
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed

For the frosting:
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2–3 tablespoons milk

For the cinnamon rolls:
Heat oven to 350 F and butter a round cake pan.

Unroll crescent roll dough onto a lightly floured surface. Layer each triangle slightly over the other in a two-by-four rectangle. Press to seal all edges together.

In a small bowl, mash together butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Spread over crescent roll dough — edge to edge. 

Starting on the long edge, tightly roll dough into a log and press to seal the edge. Using a serrated knife, slice into eight equal rounds. 

Place in prepared cake pan, rolls touching, and bake 18–20 minutes or until golden.

For the frosting:
While the rolls bake, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until fluffy, about 3 minutes. 

Add in milk as needed to slightly thin the mixture. 

Once rolls are baked, let cool 5 minutes before coating in frosting.

The Salty-Sweet

Start to finish: 10 minutes | Impresses: 1

1 tablespoon cream cheese
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 slices white bread
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 tablespoons grape jelly
¼ cup wavy chips, crumbled

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and peanut butter. Set aside.

Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. Spread peanut butter mixture on the opposite side of one slice and the jelly on the opposite side of the other slice.

Place slice with peanut butter in skillet, buttered side down, and toast until browned, about 3–4 minutes. Sprinkle with crumbled wavy chips and top with other slice of bread, jelly side down. Flip and grill an additional 3–4 minutes. Slice and serve immediately.

Tart Cheesecake Tart

Start to finish: 4 hours 30 minutes
Makes: One pie

Crust instructions
1    package coconut macaroon cookies (or cookie, without filling, of your choice)
6    tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½    teaspoon salt

Place cookies into the bowl of a food processor. Grind cookies into a fine meal.

If you don’t have a food processor, place cookies in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and seal shut. Using a rolling pin or heavy pan, crush the cookies into a fine meal.

Measure out 1½ cups of crumbs and place them in a medium-sized bowl, then mix in butter and salt.

Press crust mixture into a pie, tart or springform pan. Using a flat-bottomed measuring cup, press crust evenly into place and up against the sides of the pan.

Filling instructions
2    packages cheesecake pudding mix
3    cups whole milk
1    cup fresh lime juice
1    tablespoon lime zest
     8-ounce block cream cheese, softened

In a large bowl, whisk together pudding mix and milk until smooth.

Add in lime juice, zest and cream cheese. Using a handheld mixer, beat until cream cheese is combined and mixture is slightly fluffy.

Tart assembly instructions
Heat oven to 400 F.

Prepare coconut cookie crust and press into a pie or tart pan. Bake 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Prepare key lime filling and pour into cooled crust. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Slice and serve.

Jalapeño Popper Mac


Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Impresses: 6

2 green bell peppers
3 jalapeño peppers
½ pound bacon, diced
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons flour
2½ cups whole milk
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
salt and pepper
8 ounces corkscrew pasta
1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup panko breadcrumbs 

Preheat broiler to 500 F. Place the bell and jalapeño peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet and char each side, turning the peppers every 2–3 minutes to ensure they don’t burn. 

Remove peppers from oven and place in a freezer-safe gallon bag. Seal shut and set aside to steam. 

Reduce oven heat to 350 F. Grease a cast-iron pan with butter and set aside. 

In a high-edge skillet on medium heat, add bacon and cook until crispy — about 7 minutes. Remove bacon and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Dispose of bacon grease and return skillet to medium-low heat. 

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. 

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and whisk in flour until all the butter is absorbed. Continue to work for about 1 minute to remove the flour flavor. Add milk and whisk to combine. Stir in cream cheese. Stir every minute for about 5 minutes to avoid scorching. 

While cream cheese melts, add pasta and a generous sprinkling of salt to boiling water. Cook until al dente, drain and return pot to stovetop. Note: The pasta should still have a bite to it because it will go into the oven for more baking. 

Add the cheddar to the skillet and whisk to combine. Add more milk if needed. Whisk until cheese is melted, smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper and pour over noodles in pot. 

Take the peppers out of the gallon bag and remove the seeds, top and skins. Dice peppers and place in pot with noodles and sauce. Add bacon. Stir until well combined and pour into cast-iron pan. 

Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and mix with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of pasta. 

Bake 10–12 minutes or until pasta is bubbly and top is browned.

Cowboy Lasagna

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Recipe courtesy of Miranda Rice

Start to finish: 1 hour and 5 minutes
Impresses: 10

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 24-ounce jar spaghetti or marinara sauce
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 stick butter
1 16-ounce package lasagna noodles, cooked al dente and drained
cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine cream cheese, sour cream and ricotta cheese until blended. 

Combine meat and spaghetti sauce.

Place a few thin slices of butter in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. 

Place ½ of the lasagna noodles on top of the butter. 

Pour ½ of the cheese mixture on top of the noodles and spread well. 

Repeat last three steps and layer remaining noodles, cheese and meat. 

Top with grated cheddar cheese. 

Bake for 30 minutes.

Queso Fresco Cheesecake

With crumbles of La Vaquita® Queso Fresco folded into the batter, this cheesecake delivers in texture and depth of flavor. Top with dulce de leche to tie together the sweet and salty profile that makes for a perfect end to a festive meal.

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

3 blocks cream cheese, softened
4 ounces La Vaquita® Queso Fresco, crumbled
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs

Heat oven to 325 F.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar until combined. Press into a 9-inch spring form pan. (If you don’t have a spring form pan, a 9x9 baking dish will work for cheesecake bars.)
In the bowl of a food processor, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and eggs until smooth.
Sprinkle in La Vaquita Queso Fresco and pulse two or three times until combined.
Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake 50–55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool completely before removing spring form ring. Serve as is or with warm dulce de leche or caramel.