Grilled Queso Panela With Shrimp and Roasted Tomatillo and Poblano Salsa

I received Tomatillo y Poblano salsa from the Bernard family and needless to say that the entire jar is GONE! It goes well with so many things… the flavor is full and the heat is medium, just right. When I was thinking “outside the jar”, I wanted to make something unique with a flavor profile that reminded me of summer. Shrimp and queso panela were the perfect combo for this simple dish with an impressive presentation. You can make this for a night at home to share, accompanied with fresh warm corn tortillas, or for company to really WOW your crowd. Alternatively, this can be made using homemade tomatillo salsa, however, Bernard’s salsa is absolutely deliciously and I highly recommend checking out their website!

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 12 ounces queso panela, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 6-8 extra large brown gulf shrimp
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4-6 tablespoons Tomatillo y Poblano Salsa
  • Corn tortillas, for serving


  • Light one bbq pit full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.  Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill cheese slices until browned on both sides, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from grill. *alternatively can be grilled on a well oiled cast iron grill.
  • Toss shrimp in 1 tbsp salsa and 1 tbsp olive oil. In sauté pan, or on your bbq pit, cook shrimp until pink on both sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Spread a layer of salsa on the bottom of a shallow dish or plate. Nestle cheese in salsa. Add the cooked shrimp on top of cheese. Spoon salsa and cilantro on top and serve immediately with warm tortillas.

Hot Spinach Dip

This is the biggest crowd pleaser of them all! I made for a party and everyone raved about how delicious it was…if only they knew how easy it was to make! The original recipe has artichoke in it as well, which is optional. I chose to make it without and really enjoyed the consistency. This is definitely my go-to recipe for a hot dip you can enjoy with or without company. Accompanied with a glass of cold white wine, this is the perfect appetizer!


  • 1 bag (9 oz.) baby spinach leaves or 1 box (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, cooked, cooled and squeezed dry
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup real Mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 package Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
  • 1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped *Optional
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped


  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole, then top with remaining cheese.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until dip is hot.
  • Serve with crostini, soft French or Italian bread, or crackers.

Tzatziki Sauce


  • 10 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and cored, diced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dill
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  • Stir together yogurt, diced cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a bowl. Add dill, salt, and pepper; whisk until smooth. Pour into a serving dish, cover tightly, and chill well before serving.

Bacon Jalapeño Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are a must at every holiday table, but most especially for EASTER! I came across this recipe and had to try it, a unique twist on a classic… this did not disappoint. The flavors were everything I was hoping for and I will be making them over and over again. Make this for your Easter Sunday lunch and you will never switch back to regular ol’ deviled eggs again!


  • 3-4 slices thick cut bacon, crumbled
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 whole jalapeño, *roasted & minced (alternatively, 8-10 slices pickled jalapeño)
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro, finely chopped


  • Preheat oven to 400*
  • Place 3-4 slices of thick cut bacon on a cooking rack/sheet, and one jalapeño, sliced in half and seeded.
  • Bake bacon and jalapeño for 25 minutes or to your likeness.
  • Place the eggs in a bowl of hot water while you bring 2-3″ of water to a boil in a pot.
  • Reduce heat to medium and after it stops boiling carefully lower eggs into pot with a spoon.
  • Cook for 15 minutes and then place eggs in a bowl of ice water. 
  • Wait ten minutes and then crack eggs on counter.
  • Mince the roasted jalapeño and slice the cooked bacon.
  • Peel eggs and cut in half.
  • Scoop out the egg yolks into a mixing bowl and mash with fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, jalapeńos, salt and pepper. 
  • Mix until smooth and fill crevice in eggs with mixture, piping if desired.
  • Garnish with paprika, and crumbled bacon.

Cranberry Brie Bites

These little hors d’oeuvres are perfect for holiday parties, easy to make and please any crowd. I am a huge fan of brie in puff pastry, and the cranberry sauce on top with fresh thyme adds such a delightful flavor. This is also a great way to use leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving or your Christmas dinner. I am freezing my leftover cranberry sauce to use in various recipes such as this!

Ingredients for Homemade Cranberry Sauce

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (no sugar added or freshly squeezed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • One 12-ounce bag cranberries

Instructions for cranberry sauce

  • Combine the sugar, orange juice, 1/2 cup water, the cinnamon, salt and cranberries in a medium saucepan. Bring up to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

Ingredients for Bites

  • 1 package of frozen Puff pastry Sheets
  • 1 quarter brie wheel
  • Homemade cranberry sauce
  • Fresh thyme sprigs

Instructions for Bites

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly mist a 24-cup mini-muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside.
  • On a clean, dry cutting board lay down your sheet of defrosted puff pastry. Using a knife (or a pizza cutter), cut the dough into 3-4” squares. Press each pastry square into a well of the mini-muffin tin to form a cup with excess hanging off sides of cup. If the pastry has warmed to room temperature, place the tin in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to re-chill.
  • Cut the brie into small cubes to place on the puff pastry in the muffin tin. Use a spoon to scoop desired amount of cranberry sauce onto brie. Before putting in the oven, sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
  • Place the tin into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until brie is melted and cups begin to turn golden. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before removing from the tin.

Guacamole Tradicional

I would always spend my summers in San Miguel De Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico. The culture and history is rich there with cobblestone streets and bells that echo over the city from la Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the towering cathedral overlooking San Miguel’s central plaza known as, El Jardin. We would always stay at the same casita that came with our very own house keeper, Dolores. Dolores was a pro at making freshly squeezed orange juice, chicken with squash blossoms, and of course guacamole. Every day after my mom, my aunt, and I would return from exploring the town, shopping the tiendas and street markets, and watching the vibrant people circling around El Jardin, we would return home to a gorgeous and bountiful platter of freshly made guacamole. Dolores would use only the freshest and simplest ingredients, ripe avocados and juicy limes from the Mercado de Martes, salted to perfection. This recipe was creamy and delicious, needing nothing more added. I have always liked my guacamole this way, with pico de gallo on the side. The memories of having this as we laughed and sat on the balcony that overlooked the courtyard full of pink and orange bougainvilleas and royal Poinciana will forever be engrained into my heart. So when I want to take myself back to that time in that beautiful place, I whip up some creamy guacamole served with crispy tostadas and have myself a cold Modelo Especial. This recipe is simple, the way it should be. You can serve it with some crumbled queso fresco and cilantro on top if you choose!

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime
  • A large pinch of salt


  1. To cut the avocados, run a knife around the avocado (from top to bottom) and twist in half. Pull out and discard the pit. Using a spoon or your thumb, remove the flesh and place into a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Cut the lime in half and squeeze both halves into the bowl with the avocado, being careful not to get any seeds in the bowl. Add the salt and any/all or none of the optional ingredients. Using a fork gently mash each avocado half a few times then stir all ingredients together.

Marisa’s Pico De Gallo

This Pico de Gallo recipe is specific to my best friend Misha, she is proud of this as well she should be, as it is flavorful and such a crowd pleaser. She is adamant about the fact that she does not measure anything, but the below measurements are approximate. She also adds ground black pepper to her Pico which adds another level of spice that is integral to the flavor of this recipe. She made this for my housewarming fiesta, served with homemade tortilla chips and Piña Coladas to compliment! I will only use her recipe for Pico, it is the best there is. Nothing better than the robust, fresh produce all marinating together with lime juice for a delicious aperitivo!

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • 5 whole roma tomatoes diced
  • 1/4 large yellow onion diced
  • 1/4 cup Cilantro minced
  • 1/2 large jalapeno pepper minced, seeded if you want a more mild taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  •  salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place all ingredients into a large bowl.
  2. Mix and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Cover and place in fridge until ready to serve!