Peppermint Hot Chocolate Mix

I found this...ahem, on Pinterest. I'm kind of obsessed as I'm sure you've noticed. I found this recipe as a gift idea and after I pinned it, my friend told me she had made it and loved it. Of course that's all the encouragement I needed.

My family has now gone through 3 full batches, my friend demolished her jar and my son's teacher enjoyed it also. I highly recommend this as a last-minute neighbor/mailman/paper boy gift. OR just make some Christmas morning for your family.

The original recipe called for powdered milk and to stir themix into hot water but I really prefer milk so I skipped the powdered stuff and mix mine into hot milk. And then top it off with strong coffee and...well, sometimes whipped cream.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Mix

adapted from my recipes

1 c. cocoa powder
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. miniature chocolate chips
1/2 c. crushed candy canes or peppermint discs

Layer ingredients in a jar and tie with a ribbon to gift to a friend. Or stir it all together in an air-tight container and keep on hand for personal use.

To serve--Stir 3 Tb. mix into 1 c. hot milk.

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Strawberry Jello Salad

This is a salad in the loosest sense of the word. I don't get it at all...but I do LOVE it! We actually eat this at holidays on a salad day with our dinner. I mean, that way we don't have to choose between this and pie.

My mom has made this on Thanksgiving and Christmas every year as long as I can remember. I truly don't know any other family that would call something with a pretzel/butter crust, cream cheese/whipped cream filling, and a jello top a "salad" but I'll take it. This would make a great summer dessert!

Make this, if you want to feel like a Midwestern.

Strawberry Jello Salad

2 ½ c. crushed pretzels (about 9 oz.)
¾ c. melted butter
3 tb. sugar

8 oz. cream cheese
½ c. sugar
1 tub Cool Whip, defrosted

6 oz pkg. strawberry jello
2 c. boiling water
10 oz. pkg. frozen strawberries, thawed.

Stir together crushed pretzels, sugar and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a greased 9x13'' pan and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Cool crust completely. In another bowl cream together softened cream cheese and sugar with a mixer, then fold in the Cool Whip and carefully spread over the cooled crust. Put the pan into the fridge while preparing the last layer. Combine Jello, boiling water and strawberries. Let chill one hour until Jello mixture begins to set (this will prevent the Jello from leaking through to the crust). Pour over cream cheese mixture. Chill a few hours or until Jello is completely set.

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Cranberry Salsa

I spotted this recipe on Pinterest and really wanted to try it. I made a couple changes and we just love this stuff! It's great with tortilla chips on its own, or our favorite is spread over cream cheese with crackers. YUM.

This recipe is so simple and quick to make, I think I'm going to make it for the neighbors for Christmas. Making 10 batches of this would be WAY quicker than cookies. AND if I eat a whole bunch I wouldn't un-do all of my bootcamp hard work.
Cranberry Salsaadapted from bake-aholic

1 package of fresh cranberries (12 oz)
1/2 c. sugar
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, roughly chopped (I left in some seeds.)
3 green onion, roughly chopped
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp cumin

Pulse everything together in the food processer until chopped to your liking. I left in some chunks. Refrigerate 12 hours before serving. This will stay good in the fridge a long time (up to 2 weeks.) Serve with tortilla chips or over cream cheese with crackers.

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Loaded Kettle Chips

Rob and I went out to dinner the other night to a restaurant in Central Phoenix called the Windsor. (Which we would highly recommend.) They have a delectable treat called "Loaded Chips." We ate every last chip and immediately decided I MUST re-create them.

Today, for Thanksgiving we obviously "needed" some appetizers before our big dinner at 6:00 so I made these Loaded Kettle Chips and I have decided that this is my favorite recipe I've ever invented or re-created myself.  A-mazing.  It would be really simple to make these vegetarian without the bacon. I did not make my own kettle chips because I didn't feel like it and I had already made an entire Thanksgiving feast with my sister and I was too tired to fry chips.  However, if you have a fry daddy all ready it would be super fantastic with homemade chips.

Loaded Kettle Chips
with Caramelized Balsamic Onions, Bacon, Blue Cheese & Chipotle Cream

Caramelized Balsamic Onions:
3 1/2 medium/large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 Tb EVOO (or reserve some bacon grease...YUM)
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

Chipotle Cream:
1/2 c. sour cream
1 heaping Tb mayo
1 chipotle, minced
1-2 tsp adobo sauce from chipotle can
1-2 tsp granulated garlic

3/4-1 c. blue cheese crumbles
2-19 oz bags kettle chips
1 lb bacon, chopped and crisply cooked

To make the onions: Heat oil or grease in a large skillet.  Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until the onions start to soften and brown.  Pour in balsamic vinegar and lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, for 30-35 minutes until onions are completely soft and caramelized.  Season with salt & pepper.

To make the chipotle cream: Mix together sour cream, mayo, chipotle, adobo sauce and garlic.  Taste and adjust garlic and adobo to your liking.  It should be pretty spicy because it is just a drizzle on the top.

To assemble chips: Heat an oven to 350.  Line a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with foil and pour the chips in a layer on the sheet.  Sprinkle on the bacon, then the onions, then the blue cheese.  Bake for 10 minutes or until the blue cheese starts to melt.  Remove from the oven and drizzle on the chipotle cream to your liking.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

We had a sandwich like this at a restaurant recently and Rob and I both fell in love immediately.  Of course I had to recreate it with my own flare, so I added a balsamic reduction.  Rob told me that if he were a vegetarian, he would eat this sandwich once a week.

Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

makes four sandwiches

8 slices of sourdough bread
4 Tb softened butter
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
large beefsteak tomato sliced
fresh basil leaves
4 Tb Pesto
Balsamic reduction

To make the sandwiches, butter one side of each slice of bread.  Spread 1 Tb of Pesto on one piece of bread, then layer on top Basil leaves, Tomatoes & Mozzarella Cheese.  Grill for a couple minutes on each side until golden brown and the cheese is melted.

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Buffalo Chicken Dip

I've had buffalo wing dip many times.  I've always liked it but some are better than others.  This one is really, really good.  My friend made this at a party recently and I just loved it.  So of course I made it myself...and added a little extra cheese, because--why not?

I made this at my daughter's birthday dinner to go with pizza and we scraped out the crock pot!  This dip goes well with celery sticks or tortilla chips.  Or pizza crust too.  I made 1 1/2 the recipe for 5 adults so I would highly recommend doubling for a party.

Buffalo Wing Dip

2 c. shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1 block cream cheese (neufchatel works great), softened
1/2 c. Franks Buffalo sauce
1/2 c. Ranch dressing
1/2 c. shredded (sharp) cheedar cheese

Mix together all ingredients and either put inside a little dipper crock pot for an hour or bake in an 8'' square pan at 350 for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Serve with tortilla chips and celery.

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Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

I think I've blogged enchiladas before. Maybe once or twice. And probably you're getting the picture that we love Mexican food. Like really, really love it!

This recipe is based off of the creamy chicken enchiladas that I feel like everyone knows the recipe for, but of course I had to kick it up a notch and I like to use corn tortillas for a few reasons. One, because their much healthier for you. And two, because they hold up much better with filling and sauce without getting soggy. And I just like them.

I made this in my Pampered Chef deep covered baker and cooked it in the microwave (it's unbelievable how amazing stuff turns out in that thing!) BUT, a 9x13 pan would work out great. We ate ours with a few dots of sriracha for an extra kick, because we're punchy like that.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

10-12 corn tortillas, quartered
1 12-oz can green chile enchilada sauce
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, cooked & chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used reduced fat)
1 c. (heaping) sour cream
1/4 of an onion, minced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, ribs & seeds removed, minced (You can sub a fork-full of nacho slices)
4 whole roasted hatch chiles, peeled and chopped (or 1 4-oz can chopped green chiles)
salt & pepper to taste
2 c. shredded colby-jack or cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together the chicken, soup, sour cream, onion, garlic, jalapeno and green chiles. Taste and add more jalapeno and salt & pepper if needed. To assemble, pour a little bit of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan. Layer the tortilla quarters in a single layer. Spread on half of the chicken mixture, half of the cheese and top with another single layer of tortillas. Spread a little more sauce on top of that. Add the other half of the chicken mixture, the cheese and another tortilla layer. Top with more enchilada sauce. Bake 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. (If using the deep covered baker, microwave covered 15 minutes.) Let stand 10 minutes to let it settle before cutting and serving.

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Parmesan Italian Chicken

I found this recipe in a magazine advertizement for Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix a long time ago.  I'm pretty sure I (kind of) discreetly tore it out of a magazine in a doctor's office at the time.  Over the last several years I've made this many times, especially when I don't have dinner planned and it's somewhat last minute. 

In this photo I used chicken breast tenders, but chicken breast halves work well also.

Parmesan Italian Chicken

1/2 c. Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 envelope Italian Salad Dressing Mix
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or tenders)

Preheat oven to 400. In a pie plate mix together the cheese, dressing mix and garlic powder.  Dredge the chicken in the cheese mixture, patting to coat it well. Bake in a 9x13 pan 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  (Tenders take less time to cook that chicken breasts.)

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Peanut Butter Cheese Ball

Yet another recipe I found on Pinterest.  I had all of the ingredients for this so I made it right away for the ladies in our small group and it was a hit.  My favorite dipper with this was the granny smith apples, the tart apples with the sweet peanut butter ball was a great combo.

Peanut Butter Cheese Ball
adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature

1 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter (not all-natural)
3 Tb packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c. chocolate or mini chocolate chips
Apple slices, graham sticks and/or animal crackers for dipping
Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar in large mixing bowl until blended.
Spoon onto a large piece of plastic wrap, bring up all four corners and twist tightly forming into a ball shape.
Freeze for 1 1/2 hours, or until firm enough to keep its shape. Place the chocolate chips on a plate. Remove plastic wrap and roll the ball into the chocolate chips to completely cover, pressing them into the ball if necessary.
Place ball on serving dish; cover and freeze for 2 hours or until almost firm. (Can be made ahead. If frozen overnight, thaw at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.) Serve with graham sticks, animal crackers or apple slices for dipping.

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Italian Stuffed Peppers

I found this recipe on Pinterest.  I just love that site.  The original recipe is from Skinny Taste and of course I doctored it up a bit, but we all really loved it and it's very healthful.

Italian Stuffed Peppers
adapted from Skinny Taste

1 lb lean chopped turkey meat

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 onion, minced
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste
3 large sweet red bell peppers, washed
1 1/4 c. marinara sauce
1 1/2 c. cooked rice
Cooking spray
1/2 c. chicken broth

1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 400.  Spray a 9x13'' pan with cooking spray.  Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with a healthy amount of cooking spray.  Add in turkey and onion.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until turkey is cooked through.  Drain off any fat. Add in garlic and cook a minute, until fragrant.  Stir in marinara sauce and rice, remove from heat.  Slice peppers in half lengthwise, remove stems and seeds.  Stuff pepper halves to heaping with rice mixture.  Place the pepper halves in the pan, pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the pan and sprinkle mozzarella on the top of each pepper.  Cover the pan tightly with foil.  Bake 35 minutes.  Enjoy!

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Classic Bruschetta

We love bruschetta. So much. This recipe I just threw together and we love it. Very fresh and summery and a great use of the giant bush of basil I now have growing in my backyard!

Last night when I made this I wrote it all down, so here for you is the bruschetta recipe.

Classic Bruschetta1 baguette
olive oil for drizzling
4 on-the-vine tomatoes or 5 roma tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (measured before chopped)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 Tb balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tb olive oil

Slice the baguette into 1/4'' slices (or so). Drizzle with olive oil and broil for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and toasted. Slice the tomatoes in half and remove all of the seeds. Chop the tomatoes and toss together with basil, salt, pepper, basil, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. Serve immediately.

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Buffalo Chicken and Potato Bake

I found this recipe on Pinterest.  I doctored this recipe up a bit (as usual) and we really liked it. My kids will eat spicy food so they liked this too.  If you like buffalo chicken and creamy cheesy potatoes, you'll like this.

Buffalo Chicken and Potato Bake
adapted from Holy Cannoli Recipes

1 1/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into  strips

1/3 c. Franks buffalo sauce
6 c.frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted
1 c. ranch dressing
2-3 heaping Tb crumbled blue cheee (optional)
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used reduced fat)
1/2 c. breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Toss chicken and buffalo sauce together and layer on the bottom of the pan.  Mix hash browns, ranch, blue cheese, onion, garlic, cheddar, and chicken soup in a bowl and stir to combine.  Layer the potatoes over the chicken.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.  Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and the chicken is cooked through.

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Pumpkin Cupcakes with Caramel Icing

I found the recipe for these pumpkin cupcakes here.  The original recipe called for yellow cake but I felt like a spice cake would be more fall-y, and it was.  The only brand of spice cake I could find is Duncan Hines so keep your eyes open for it.

These cupcakes were so awesome and...LOW fat/calories.  I highly recommend this 2-ingredient recipe.
For the frosting, I was thinking of using a classic cream cheese frosting until I found this recipe for caramel icing.  It. Is. So. Good.  These cupcakes would be a great addition to any fall gathering, even your Halloween block party.  (I think the burnt butter frosting would be great on these cupcakes too.)

Pumpkin Cupcakes

1 15-oz can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1 box spice cake mix

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Mix together pumpkin and cake mix.  Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool before frosting.

Caramel Icing

3 Tb butter

1/4 c. heavy cream (I subbed half and half)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Melt butter, cream, and brown sugar in a sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat until it just starts boiling.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt.  Let the butter mixture cool and then stir in powdered sugar.  Use to frost the pumpkin cupcakes.

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Mediterranean Tuna Panini's

I found this recipe in Rachael Ray Magazine and it looked so good, yet so different from a regular tuna melt that we had to try it.  We loved these sandwiches!  My kids were not quite thrilled, but they did eat it. (And what they didn't eat Rob finished off for them.)

I don't have a panini press so I cooked the sandwiches in a cast iron skillet and put another skillet over the top with a bowl in it to weigh them down a little bit but I think just grilling them would work fine to.

Mediterranean Tuna Panini's
adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray

Makes 3-4 sandwiches, depending on how full you stuff them.

2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 juicy lemon, juiced
4 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp thyme
black pepper
sea salt
3 5-oz cans tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp. capers, chopped
3 Tb. parsley, chopped
4 slices swiss cheese
tomato slices
4 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese
8 slices sourdough bread
4 Tb butter

In a small bowl mix together garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, pepper and salt.  Set aside.  In a mixing bowl add tuna, onion, capers, and parsley.  Pour over dressing and toss to coat.  Heat a skillet over medium-high or panini press. Lightly butter the bread.  Layer swiss cheese, tuna, tomatoes, and provolone.  Grill on each side a couple minutes or until the bread is golden-brown and the cheese is melted.  I served these with sweet potato fries.

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Chicken Parmesan Bake and Garlic & Parmesan Croutons

A friend of mine "pinned" this recipe on Pinterest and I saw it and had to make it immediately.  The only thing I didn't have was croutons so I made some and I think that's what put the recipe over the top.  This is so good.  My husband decided he wanted to have this for his birthday. 

I think this recipe is healthier/lower in calories than actual breaded and fried chicken parmesan so that's a plus too AND it's a full-meal all in one.  If you wanted to pack in more vegetables you could layer in some fresh or frozen spinach.

Chicken Parmesan Bake
Adapted from About.com
*recipe updated 9-29-12
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (I love mine)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 lbs skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups marinara sauce, I used homemade but a jar would work great
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (If you don't have easy access to basil sub a couple tsp. of dried basil)
  • 1 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2-3/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 c. homemade croutons, recipe follows

Pre-heat oven to 350.  In a 9x13 pan layer the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Add the chicken chunks on top of that and season well with salt and pepper.  Pour the marinara over the chicken and sprinkle the basil on top of that.  Layer half of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses on top.  Bake 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and then lay the croutons over the top and sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.  Bake another 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked and cheeses are melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Garlic & Parmesan Croutons

1 baguette or 3/4 loaf of french bread (about 4-5 c. bread cubes)
5 Tb butter
3-4 garlic cloves
sea salt
1 Tb grated parmesan cheese

Slice the baguette and then chop it into 1'' cubes.  Preheat the oven to 350 and cover a cookie sheet with foil. Melt the butter in a sauce pan, add in the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Pour the butter over the bread cubes and toss to coat.  The bread should be just coated not completely soaked with butter. Spread the cubes out in one layer on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt and parmesan cheese.  Bake 10-12 minutes, making sure not to overcook.  Let cool and store in an airtight container or ziploc bag for up to a week.  OR use them on the casserole above! 

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Just Like Grammy's Potato Salad

I made another potato salad recently that I love and my sister and I started reminiscing about our Grammy's potato salad. It was simple, yet we all loved it. I can't even imagine how many pounds of potatoes she must've boiled and chopped to fill up that gigantic yellow Tupperware for the family Fourth of July bbq every year, but I took a stab at re-creating it the other day on a smaller scale and it worked out well. I brought this to a potluck and it was gone very fast.

I like to "bake" my potatoes in the microwave for potato salad but baking them in the oven or boiling them works perfectly too so do whatever works for you.

Just Like Grammy's Potato Salad

3 lbs yellow, yukon gold, or russet potatoes, cooked & chopped
4 eggs, boiled & chopped
1/2 onion, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
4 dill pickle spears OR 2-3 large dill pickles, diced
2 Tb sweet pickle relish
3/4 tsp seasoned salt
fresh cracked pepper
1 Tb spicy mustard
1 c. mayo (maybe more)
paprika for sprinkling

Add potatoes, eggs, onion, celery, pickles and relish into a bowl and toss together. Stir in mustard and mayo. Taste and add more seasoning or mayo if needed. Pour completed salad into a serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika. Chill at least one hour before serving with just about anything!

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Texas Burger with Chipotle Lime Spread

This burger wasn't a plan. It just...happened. And it was good. The burger, cheese, grilled jalapenos, caramelized onions, bacon, bbq sauce, chipotle lime spread combo just works. And apparently I spilled a dollop of the Chipotle Lime Spread on the plate but a little extra never hurt, right?

We had some frozen burger patties from Omaha Steaks in the freezer so I just grilled up those. You can certainly make your own pattys as I usually do.

Texas Burger with Chipotle Lime Spread

6 burger patties of your choice
seasoned salt, pepper, granulated garlic for sprinkling
6 slices sharp cheddar cheese
4 jalapenos
2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 Tb butter
6 slices bacon, crisply cooked
Bbq Sauce
Chipotle Lime Spread
6 fresh bakery rolls

Start two small skillets heating over medium heat on the stove. (Or you could just cook the jalapenos and onions together.) Slice the jalapenos thinly (remove ribs and seeds if you don't do spicy), slice the onion thinly. In one pan add the olive oil and jalapenos. In the other pan melt the butter and toss inthe onions. Cook both slowly until the jalapenos are soft and the onions are caramelized. The onions will take longer.

Season and grill burgers to your desired done-ness and top with cheese. Toast the buns in the oven, being careful not to burn. Put a dollop of chipotle lime spread on the bottom bun, then the bacon, then the burger, onions, jalapenos and some bbq sauce. This burger would be great with Fresh Corn with Chipotle Lime Spread, Sweet Potato Fries, or Classic Coleslaw.

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Fresh Corn with Lime Chipotle Spread

We had something like this corn at a graduation party for my sister in-law's sister...which I guess it would be easier to just say our friend's graduation party...  So anyway, it was so awesome.  They served it with fajitas and mini-chimis

Then the other day I was making corn so I threw some things together and...it worked out.We loved it.  Then we repurposed the spread on a burger and I'll post that later. 

I think that the original corn had cotija cheese but I didn't have any of that so either one works.

Fresh Corn with Lime Chipotle Spread

6 ears corn, shucked and rinsed
2 Tb mayo
2 Tb sour cream
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder (regular chili powder would work too)
1/2 lime, juiced
3 Tb feta or cotija cheese

Boil or grill the corn.  Or par boil it and then grill it the rest of the way.  While the corn is cooking mix together the mayo, sour cream chili powder, lime juice and cheese in a bowl.  While the corn is piping hot smear the spread over the corn and serve warm.  This would go great with enchiladas, burgers, or just about anything!

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