This dreamy, creamy strawberry mousse can also be made into a pie. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

The grandchildren love nachos and have been known to eat them for dinner. One evening I decided to try this recipe out with the thought that it would be more substantial than the usual chips. Let me tell you, it was a hit.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundys Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

This velvety cheese sauce can also be reheated and used for other meals if you want to double the batch. Think broccoli cheese soup, upgraded baked potatoes or mac and cheese. It’s your call. I like to use sharp cheese and whole milk, but this recipe is flexible, as are the toppings.

To truly refer to a pan of totchos as a meal, you’ll want to add a salad. This chopped southwest version is a staple here year-round, as is the fresh pico de gallo that goes with it. Use the freshest, ripest tomatoes available. Frozen corn will do, but fresh corn is so much better.

Speaking of fresh ingredients, who’s been out to pick strawberries or purchased them at a nearby farmers market? I used to pick quarts and quarts of them every summer and make jars of jam (and daiquiris). It was a tradition that spanned decades. Now I’m content to grab a few quarts of berries each week at the local farm stand throughout the season and enjoy the jam my daughters make.

This dreamy, creamy mousse can also be piled into a pie shell. I suggest whipping the heavy cream first then folding it into the other blended ingredients. Chill the mousse for several hours before spooning it into a pie shell.

As for me, I’ll just dip whole juicy berries into the mousse or slather it on graham crackers. In the summer especially, we keep things light and casual here at the cove.

Totchos

1 (1 pound) bag frozen tater tots
2 cups cheese sauce (recipe below)
1 pound ground beef, ground turkey or diced bacon
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup salsa
2 scallions, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (or the temperature recommended on the tater tots package). Spread tater tots in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake for the recommended amount of time on the package.

Meanwhile, cook ground meat or bacon in a skillet until no longer pink. Drain and set aside.

When the tater tots are done, remove from oven. Spoon cheese sauce on the tots and sprinkle on the cooked meat. Return the tots with toppings to the oven and cook until the cheese is bubbly. Serve with sour cream, salsa and scallions. Yield: 4 servings

Cheese Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour and cook while stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk then add salt and onion powder.

Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes. Stir in grated cheese a half cup at a time, stirring constantly until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasonings and remove from heat.

Sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to five days. When reheating, add a teaspoon or two of milk if needed. Yield: 3 cups

Chopped Southwest Salad

18 ounces romaine lettuce, chopped
4 ears fresh sweet corn, with kernels cut from cobs
1 cup black beans
2 avocados, chopped
2 handfuls tortilla chips, crushed
Pico de gallo (recipe below)
Ranch dressing
Salsa

For the dressing, combine equal amounts of ranch dressing and salsa in a small bowl and set aside.

Add romaine, sweet corn, black beans and desired amount of pico de gallo to a large bowl and toss. Add avocado and chips and toss with dressing when ready to serve. Yield: 4 servings

Pico de Gallo

4 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 scallions, diced
1 jalapeño (or more or less), seeded and minced
1/2 cup packed cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Yield: 2 cups

Strawberry Mousse

1 cup strawberry jam
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectionary sugar (optional)
Fresh strawberries for garnish

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Taste and blend in sugar if needed. For a fluffier mousse, whip the cream in a separate bowl first until soft peaks form then fold it into the other blended ingredients.

Divide into serving dishes and chill for at least 1 hour. Garnish with berries. Yield: 4 servings

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