Make jalapeno popper dip to make people love you

So, this dip is everything you ever wanted from a jalapeno popper, only with way less active prep time. I love jalapeno poppers, so I don’t say this lightly. Make it. Just make it. Make it the next time you have some people over. They will love you forever.

Now, first things first, this recipe calls for a lot of jalapenos.

jalapenos

It may even seem like too many jalapenos, especially considering we’re leaving the seeds in. It’s really not. They’re sauteed briefly to mellow them out a bit, and they mellow out even more in the oven. Not to mention, there’s plenty of creamy stuff to balance the spice. Trust me.

There is one danger to making this dip. If you want to take a pretty photo of your completed dip, I recommend doing this before you set it out anywhere people may be able to access it. Otherwise you’ll turn around for a few minutes, and when you come back, you’ll be faced with this:

jalapeno popper dip

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Adapted from Jalapeno Popper Dip by Macheesmo

8-10 jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 heaping cups) cheddar cheese, grated (I like extra sharp)
2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 heaping cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
Tortilla chips, for serving

Wash your jalapenos and remove the stems. Then quarter lengthwise, and dice ‘em up, seeds and all.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and find a 13″ x 9″ baking pan. No need to grease it. Really.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat until it easily coats the bottom. Dump in chopped jalapenos and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until jalapeno is slightly softened and vivid green — about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic powder and oregano until it’s all fully integrated. Stir in grated cheddar to combine, then repeat with cooled jalapeno. Spread evenly into the 13″ x 9″ baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together bread crumbs and grated Parmesan until combined.  Tip for melting your butter: microwave it for a lot less time than you might think — I did two bursts of 15 seconds each for a full stick — and stir around to let residual heat melt whatever solid pieces are still left. That way you don’t have to wait so long for the butter to cool to use it. Anyway, pour your perfectly melted butter over the breadcrumb mixture, and stir until fully coated.

Spread breadcrumb mixture evenly over the cream cheese mixture in the baking pan. Pop in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until bread crumbs are brown and toasty. Let cool for at least 10 minutes, then serve with tortilla chips to ravenous snackers.

Happy birthday, Emily

Once again, I’ve been ridiculously busy. Not as fun-busy as before. Just busy.

Of course, that couldn’t prevent me from recalling that back in August my friend Emily sent me a link to Smitten Kitchen’s Pink Lemonade Bars, with the commentary: “If you ever need something to make me for any reason, that would be the something.”

pink lemonade bars

Happy birthday, Emily!

Tea smugness

“All tea pretty much tastes the same.”

This, from my mister. Sorry buddy, but I gotta disagree with you.

See, I’ve gotten into tea in the past couple of months. Even typing that out makes me feel like a smug asshole. Sorry.

The thing is, I used to have a big diet soda problem. I’m not going to admit how much diet soda I drank. It was an embarrassing amount. I needed the caffeine to get through the day. What about coffee? says everyone ever. Well, the coffee at my office leaves something to be desired. And I’m certainly not able to get it together in the morning to brew a pot at home. Plus, I don’t know… coffee has always been more of a Sunday morning brunch thing for me, a weekend treat rather than an every day occurrence. I like mine with a bit of sugar and real cream, and that is certainly not something I need to do every day.

So my friend Emily encouraged me to switch to tea. I was initially reluctant because while I like tea, I was under the impression that it was all pretty much the same, much like my mister. I’d drink it iced, but otherwise I wasn’t really into it.

Because tea bags suck. Yep. I just figured this out.

Anyway, I don’t really drink diet soda so much these days. But I am tearin’ through my tea stash like there’s no tomorrow. I guess I switched from drinking an embarrassing amount of diet soda to an embarrassing amount of tea. Being embarrassing is my default setting.

I’ve mostly ordered from Adagio, just because I’ve ordered gifts from there before and gotten good feedback. I’ve been happy.

Genmai cha, with it’s robust toasted rice flavor against the vegetal background of the Japanese green tea has become a staple of mine. I love it in the mornings, but even further into the afternoon as the rice helps cut down on the caffeine level. I’ve only had it hot, but I recently ordered a large bag and plan to make a nice big pitcher of it iced.

Another one I’m really into right now is gunpowder green tea mixed with an equal amount of spearmint tea, to make a sort of Moroccan mint tea. This is one that I’ll occasionally indulge with a bit of raw, local honey, as it really brings out the mintiness — though it’s wonderful unsweetened as well.

My nighttime tea, on the other hand, is an herbal blend that Adagio calls Foxtrot. It’s vanilla flavored rooibos, peppermint, and chamomile. I like to make a few cups after dinner to relax and help get on the road to sleepytown. Honestly, I think the peppermint is a little overwhelming in this blend, at least on the first infusion. The second infusion is definitely the star as the peppermint backs down a little. The third infusion, if I do it, usually tastes mostly of chamomile, very apple-y; the rooibos and peppermint are mostly spent by that point.

The weirdest tea I’ve ever tried? Yunnan pu erh gold. I was intrigued by the description: pu erh is an aged, fermented tea with really woodsy, earthy tones. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but I knew I wanted to try it. The verdict? Well, it smelled much worse than it tasted. I had one of my coworkers smell it after steeping, and his response was, “That doesn’t smell like something you’d want to put in your mouth.” He declined the offer to take a sip. It tasted vaguely mildewy. Not the worst, but not something I’d voluntarily do again. I only ordered a sample, so I gave the rest to another coworker of mine who said he’s really into pu erh. I don’t know, he used to live in China.

Anyway. Where do you buy your tea? What are your favorite varieties? I need more for my stash.

More Beyond Meat experiments: autumnal chicken-free salad

So, remember Beyond Meat? Well, I found out that Roots Market is selling it in five pound food service bags. So you can guess what I picked up last week.

They sell the big bags frozen, which answers a question you may have had — yes, it freezes fine, so there’s no need to worry if you want to stock up. It’s still at a pretty high price point — I paid about $40 for the five pounds. But once they roll out nationwide I hope to see the price drop quite a bit.

With so much Beyond Meat at my disposal, I decided to tackle something I wasn’t all too optimistic about: chicken salad. I was worried that without cooking it into something, the Beyond Meat wouldn’t be up to snuff.

It’s not like I have a super refined chicken salad palate. I mean, I ate a ton of chicken salad as a kid. Just not good chicken salad. Canned chicken breast (blech) mixed with mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. That’s it. My dad stocked up on the canned chicken from Costco, so we had pyramids of it in the pantry. Mayonnaise lasts forever in the fridge. It was quick, easy, and we always had the ingredients.

Yeah.

Anyway, I promise this is way better than just fatty-salty. It’s got a lot going on; it’s creamy-salty-sweet-herby-tangy-crunchy. It’s an autumnal, Thanksgiving-y blend, with veggies and cranberries and pumpkin seeds all rounded out with a hearty dose of fresh sage and thyme. I even used Greek yogurt in place of some of the mayonnaise for a little bit of sass. And… the Beyond Meat holds up perfectly. I think it tastes delicious, but it’s been a while since I’ve had chicken. My omnivorous mister says: “It is a pretty good ringer for boneless, skinless chicken breast. It is nowhere close to a juicy roast.”

I’m cool with that.

autumnal chicken-free salad(Since this post was originally published, I have edited the recipe to reflect the slightly changed retail formulation of Beyond Meat after the national rollout.)

Autumnal Chicken-Free Salad
Adapted from Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad by Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6

1 3/4 pound Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Chicken-Free Strips, shredded
1-2 celery ribs, finely diced
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup hulled, roasted pepitas
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt *
1/2 cup mayonnaise
 *
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, stripped off the woody stalk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, then place in a medium bowl filled with cold water and ice. (Alternatively, let cool and then chill in the fridge if you are doing this ahead of time. You can also safely use the strips “raw”, but the texture is much better and they are easier to shred if you cook them.)

Once cool, shred the Beyond Meat strips with two forks (or your hands, I won’t judge).

Chop up your celery and shallots. The size of the dice is up to personal preference, but I like to go pretty fine for two reasons: the shallot benefits from having the flavor dispersed pretty evenly, and my mister is not a huge fan of raw celery so I have to chop it finely so it’s not too stringy.

So, toss your chopped veggies on top of the Chicken-Free Strips. While you’re at it, add the dried cranberries and pepitas.

Mix mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, vinegar, herbs, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. When you add the thyme, crush the leaves slightly with your fingers to get the oils going. Stir everything together until dressing is combined.

Pour dressing over the other stuff and toss until everything is fully coated. Give it a taste and salt and pepper to taste. I like to serve over a big bed of baby spinach, but it’s obviously equally at home in a sandwich, wrap, on crackers. Do what you do.

* Vegan substitutions: Instead of mayonnaise, use an equal amount of Veganaise or your choice of vegan mayonnaise. Instead of Greek yogurt, try So Delicious Dairy-Free Greek Yogurt. If you can’t find that locally, you can try straining your favorite plain soy yogurt to thicken it — start with double the amount of yogurt — or simply use more vegan mayo.

More rosemary garlic madness in the form of a white bean dip

So, I still have rosemary and garlic on the brain. Remember? I made this soup, and it was awesome. But for some reason I still can’t get the combo out of my head.

Luckily, this past weekend I went to a pumpkin carving party, so I figured I’d use this as an excuse to make bring something to nosh on; something garlicky and …rosemary-y?

So I went over to my friend’s house and looked like a creep again, cutting a bunch of rosemary sprigs out of what was obviously not my yard. “It’s okay!” I wanted to yell to passers-by. “I know them. They said I could take it. Really!”

To dip with, I made these Homemade Wheat Thins from Smitten Kitchen. Honestly, I would have just bought some crackers and veggies and called it a day. But… Deb mentioned in the original recipe that these crackers barely spread at all when they bake. This piqued my interest. It sounded like an ideal candidate for my awesome wood grain textured rolling mat.* I bought it almost a year ago and have only used it twice; once to make a yule log which was very successful, and once to make some graham crackers which were less successful. I figured these wheat thins would be a good opportunity to prove to my mister that it was definitely a necessary purchase, seeing as how I’ve used it three whole times.

I didn’t alter the recipe at all, but I will second her advice to roll the dough very, very thinly. And, you know… come back here when you’re done with the crackers to make this dip.

This is a party size dip, so feel free to halve it for a more modest portion. Or make the whole thing and use the leftovers creatively — it makes a great sandwich spread.

* You’ll notice that the 12″ x 16″ rolling mats on that site are expressly stated as not food safe, while there is no specification for the 8″ x 12″ mats. Both when I purchased it, and again at the time of posting this, I received confirmation by email that the smaller ones are food safe. If there’s uncertainty, please email them yourself before you order.

rosemary garlic white bean dip

Rosemary Garlic White Bean Dip
Adapted from White Bean Dip by David Lebovitz

16 ounces dried white beans
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup reserved bean cooking liquid
1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil and rosemary to garnish

Rinse the beans and remove any debris. Put in a large pot and cover with cold water. Let soak overnight.

There are differing schools of though on whether you should discard soaking water or whether it’s okay to cook with, so. Either discard the water and cover with cold water again, making sure you have several inches of water on top of the beans. Or keep the soaking water and add more if needed. Whatever makes your heart sing.

Add the bay leaves, then bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, leaving a gap for steam to escape, and cook until soft and falling apart, 1-2 hours depending on the type of bean you have. Remove the bay leaves, reserve some of the cooking water, then drain.

While your beans are cooking, mince your garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat in a small skillet until shimmering. Add garlic and cook very briefly, until just softened — about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Put cooked beans, rosemary, garlic/oil mixture, additional oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in food processor. (Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to do it in two batches and then stir them together in a bowl.) Process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides down as needed. Add bean cooking liquid as desired to thin. Take a nibble, and add more salt and/or pepper if desired.

Put in a serving bowl and generously drizzle olive oil over the top. Toss on some more chopped rosemary, and serve with crackers and veggies.