Blue Cheese & Fire-Roasted Tomato Queso

The first Friday of every August is International Beef Day and, honestly, that’s truly a food and beverage holiday I can get “hoppy” about! With the mission of “uniting the world through beer,” this refreshing celebration is all about raising a frosty mug up to toast good company, good times and good brew – and also about trying new things!

Considering the number of beer-drinking countries on the planet (errr, every single one), amount of beer brands and various classifications of beer (like IPA, lager, pilsner, ale or porter), the enormous options in selecting a “new-to-you” beer are mindboggling.  So many beers, so little time!  I’ll be the first to admit that I often grab my beer out of the cooler based on colorful labels and clever names, but you seasoned “hopivores” may have completely different criteria!

Sampling a new type of beer isn’t the only way to expand horizons on International Beer Day, so is trying a new snack! A recent study on snacking revealed that 94 percent of Americans snack daily and I’d wager a bet that 100 percent of us snack while sipping on (or chugging) a beer.  Salty snacks like chips, pretzels, popcorn and nuts seem to be the main munchies spotted alongside an ice-cold beer – with the occasional bowl of salsa, onion dip or traditional queso.

But, when it comes to dips I want you to widen your mind (and mouth) for the appreciation of my Blue Cheese & Fire-roasted Tomato Queso. It’s a unique cheese dip that will make your taste buds flip thanks to the bold attitude of Simply Artisan Reserve Blue Cheese Crumbles and smoky flame-kissed tomatoes. A dash of Instantly Fresh Italian Herb Blend and dried red pepper flakes make this dip decidedly a beer-pairing winner.

Don’t be worried that the directions require a whisk, this blue cheese queso is surprisingly simple to prepare, coming together in just 15 minutes or less– and you can keep it warmed for a party but pouring into a small slow cooker.

Serve with pretzels, artisan chips, or chunks of crusty bread. I’ve even reheated the leftovers and poured over cooked noodles and topped with shrimp for an impromptu pasta dinner.

Now, if you just don’t have it in you to whip out dip but need a little nosh, I say just sprinkle some blue cheese on top of a fruit slice – like apple, pear or peach – and pop the top off that beer! Cheers.

Blue Cheese & Fire-Roasted Tomato Queso

Serves 10 | Finish in 15 minutes
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It’s International Beer Day and nothing says “taste adventure” more than an imported cold brew enjoyed alongside a bowl of bold blue cheese queso and chips!

Ingredients

2½ cups whole milk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
4-ounce container Simply Artisan Reserve Blue Cheese Crumbles
6 ounces Italian Blend shredded Cheese
1 tablespoon Instantly Fresh Italian Herb Blend
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
½ cup thinly sliced green onions, both white bulbs and green tops
15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained well
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, warm milk (without boiling), stirring occasionally.
2. At the same time, heat butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add flour to melted butter and whisk continuously, cooking until it is bubbling and has turned lightly golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Stream in heated milk, whisking continuously, and continue to cook over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens slightly. Add cheeses and whisk well until melted smooth and incorporated.  Add Italian Herb Blend, dried red pepper flakes, green onions and drained tomatoes, stirring until combined.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into serving bowl and garnish as desired.


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