I’ve got a recipe for you today that’s a little bit cheesy, a little bit spicy, and is served in a crispy, carb-y, delicious bread bowl made from La Brea Bakery’s jalapeño cheddar bread. So you know, you’re welcome. The bread itself was the inspiration for the recipe, jalapeño and cheddar are a winning combination in my book! I used those flavors to update a classic baked spinach dip for a savory appetizer with a little bit of a kick. And if you’re not ready for a piping-hot dip just yet, you can refrigerate it and serve it cold too, I tested it both ways and they’re equally delicious. Recipe below!

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I have a major back-log of recipes I’ve been meaning to share here, and with the chilly grey weather in Boston this week, a highly caloric comfort food recipe just seemed like the right choice to share. We celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday in early May and I made a big tray of twice-baked potatoes, loaded to the brim with bacon and cheese-y goodness. They were a crowd-pleaser, which is always a treat when they’re actually so simple to make!

20140504-141733.jpgPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub baking potatoes thoroughly, and use a knife to slice a few holes to let steam out. Pop them in the oven and let them bake for about an hour. While the potatoes are baking, prep your toppings: shred sharp cheddar cheese, chop up scallions and/or chives, and crisp up bacon and chop it into bits.

After the potatoes are done baking, use a sharp knife to slice the top 1/4 inch off the top of the potato horizontally and discard of the skin. Using a spoon (I think a melon-baller works great!), scoop out the inside of the potatoes into a bowl. In the bowl, combine the potatoes with salt, pepper, and sour cream — I used about 1/8 cup of sour cream per potato, you may need a bit more if they’re really big. Mash the combination together to thoroughly combine and then fold in some of the chives, bacon, and cheddar cheese.

Then you’re ready to re-stuff the loaded mashed potato goodness back into the potato skins. You’ve added more to the mixture, so they’ll heap over the edges a bit at this point. Then add more bacon and cheese on top and pop them back in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted; sprinkle with fresh chives before serving.

A few weeks ago when we were in Maine for a wedding, we hanging around the rental cottage for the ‘after-after party’ and a cousin of the groom started whipping up grilled cheeses with the local blueberry jams that had come in our welcome bags. I have since been dreaming about this late-night snack and realized all of the untapped potential of grilled cheese experiments. So I set to work this weekend to test some gourmet grilled cheese recipes that would be perfect for a grilled cheese bar at a casual party, or served bite-size as an appetizer.

Grilled Cheese Bar Ingredients

Are you ready for these pairings? First up, I recreated my late night inspiration with sharp English cheddar and wild blueberry jam (this one is still my favorite!). For a savory sandwich I combined goat cheese with cracked black pepper and fresh green chives (this won the husband vote). And for the most unique combination, I used a french brie, drizzled with honey, and topped with some sweet raisins.  My cast iron skillet was  pumping out these crusty, buttery little treats and we had quite the Saturday taste-testing all of my concoctions — I’m definitely using this idea for some simple entertaining with friends!

Grilled Cheese Bar AssemblyGrilled Cheese BarGrilled Cheese Bar2