Easy queso

I was 7 years old when my brother Cory was born and he’s always been the sweetest little brother to his bossy big sister.

In fact, my sister and I used to treat him like a servant, asking him to fetch things for us or we’d cry. Cory was so tenderhearted that the thought of us crying was enough to send him scurrying off on our errands. (I’m 42 years old now and I still use that threat with him. Also, it still works.)

My baby brother turns 35 on Wednesday and he’s still the sweet one in the family while I’m most definitely still the bossy big sister. He’s got the biggest heart of probably anyone I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t be prouder of how much he cares about other people and tries to take care of them – even when it often runs him ragged.

And even when his big sister rags him about it, which I do on a regular basis because we’re siblings who run a business together. We’re bound to clash from time to time, and when we do, we have so much shared history to dredge up. (Me: “Did you make this mistake?” Cory: “Yes. I’m sorry.” Me: [Lists every mistake Cory has made since 1985.] Cory: “Thanks. I feel better now.”)

But I love him dearly and he’s always one of my favorite people to spend time with – which is why I was so excited when he told me he’d visit me every day if I made queso.

We were eating at a restaurant after having helped a friend move earlier in the day, and we ordered queso topped with chili and pico de gallo. Cory – pretty much world’s most ardent chips and queso fan – loved the combination.

“I can make this at home, you know,” I told him.

“If you do, I’ll come over every day,” he said.

“If I make this one time, you’ll come visit me every day?” I asked. “Deal!”

I actually made this on my birthday, when my family was stopping by to celebrate. I’d planned to cook both the queso and the chili in separate slow cookers, until I got a text from my brother asking if the queso was ready yet.

My usual slow cooker recipes easily transitioned to the stovetop, and a half-hour later we were ready to roll.

Cory lied; I made queso that day and he hasn’t been back since. He said “I’ve been busy” and “that’s not what I meant, anyway.” But he’ll be back.

Happy birthday, Bub!

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This is my favorite chili, modified to be a bit thicker to top the queso. You can make this on the stovetop or in a slow cooker.

  • 2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cornmeal
  • 1 14.5-ounce can beef broth
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Brown ground beef on the stovetop. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  2. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, or transfer to slow cooker and cook on low 1.5 to 2 hours. 

Pico de gallo

This makes a small batch of pico de gallo, which keeps in the fridge for a few days. You can easily scale the recipe to make a larger batch.

  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Juice of half a lime

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.