Bite-size apple cider snickerdoodles

I’m done with sticky, sweaty summer days. Done. It’s already gone back to being dark when I wake up in the morning for work, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s fall. No matter what the thermometer says.

I can’t wait to make hearty soups and pumpkiny things and apple desserts and various of eats and drinks infused with cinnamon and nutmeg and all the other spices that make you think of sweater weather.

So, you know, why not start now? I decided I’m going to will autumn into being. With some cookies.

apple cider snickerdoodlesI went to a wedding yesterday that was inspired by the couple’s tradition of making an apple crisp together every fall. I mention this for two reasons. 1) This put me in the mood to make an apple dessert of my own. 2) I really want to show somebody, anybody, everybody the awesome present my partner and I made for them.

apple crisp aleApple Crisp Ale, brewed by the mister, bottled by the two of us, and labeled and packaged by me using some of their engagement photos.

Okay, okay, back to the program.

I wanted to make an apple dessert. To narrow it down, I needed something not too messy to eat and easy to transport to my board game happy hour this week. I considered apple hand-pies… but all that assembly, whew. Cookies were definitely a better bet. But how to infuse them with apple-y goodness? I’ll be honest, 90% of the reason I decided to use apple cider is because that meant I wouldn’t have to do any of the coring, cutting, and peeling prep necessitated by using whole apples. This really (sorry) appeeled to me.

I poked around to see kind of apple cider cookies were already out there on the old internets. What presented itself over and over again was this strange recipe using an apple cider flavored just-add-water drink mix. I had no idea such a thing existed… and I was certainly not interested in purchasing any. The handful of recipes I found that used actual apple cider called for a few tablespoons, maybe a third of a cup at most. This didn’t seem like it would impart the concentrated apple cider flavor I was looking for.

I reflected on the lovely apple cider caramels I made last year from smitten kitchen. The whole recipe starts with four cups of apple cider boiled into oblivion to create a half cup of sweet and sticky apple syrup. This syrup is then used in place of some of the sugar to bring a natural, apple-y flavor and sweetness to the table. Bingo.

apple cider snickerdoodlesThis makes a looooot of bitty cookies, which is perfect for a party where you want people to get cookies in their mouth instead of crumbs on your floor. If you’d prefer, feel free to roll the dough balls a little bigger and bake longer as needed for fewer, larger cookies.

Bite-Size Apple Cider Snickerdoodles
Adapted from Snickerdoodles by Joy of Baking

Makes approximately 12 dozen mini cookies

4 cups apple cider
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

In a medium saucepan, boil apple cider uncovered over medium high heat to reduce. This will take 40-60 minutes depending on how high you keep the heat and the size of your pot. Stir occasionally, then more frequently as it starts to boil down. Keep it bubblin’ until it’s reduced to between 1/3 cup and 1/2 cup of thick syrup. Transfer to a heatproof, oiled bowl or measuring cup and let cool in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar and cooled apple cider syrup until integrated. Add butter and beat again until fully combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add dry ingredients, then beat again on low speed until the dough comes together. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a shallow bowl mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch round balls. Roll each ball in the spiced sugar coating, then place on baking sheet at least 2 inches apart (I fit 20 cookies per half-size baking sheet). Use the bottom of a glass to gently flatten the dough balls.

Bake the cookies for 7 to 8 minutes — until they are firm around the edges but still soft in the middle, and just turning light golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack until cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Cherry chocolate Gruyere galette

I’ve been hanging on this recipe for a while and couldn’t think of something to say about it.

I mean, it’s just a galette with a touch of bitterness from the super-dark chocolate, an unexpected salty bite from the Gruyere cheese, a rich and flaky crust, all capped off with sweet and juicy in-season cherries.

chocolate cherry Gruyere galetteDo I really need to say anything else?

Cherry Chocolate Gruyere Galette
Crust from Sweet Galette Dough by David Lebovitz for Fine Cooking

Serves 6-8

Crust
11 1/4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
5 oz. (about 2/3 cup) ice water

Galette
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 ounce dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and sliced in half
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Stir flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add chilled butter and pulse until crumbly, but distinct chunks of butter remain — really, big chunks are good!Add ice water, then process just until dough comes together, no more than 30 seconds. Turn dough onto work surface and gather and knead together just slightly. If is fine if you see streaks of butter on the surface, as this is what will give you delightful flakiness. Divide into two equal pieces and shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (This galette only requires one disc of dough. Wrap the other very well and freeze for later use, thawing in the fridge for one day before using. [I used a leftover disc for this one.])

While dough is chilling, mix grated Gruyere and chopped dark chocolate into the cream cheese. Set aside.

Preheat oven with baking sheet or pizza pan in it to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll one disc of chilled dough out into an approximate circle about 13 inches in diameter. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper.

Spread cream cheese mixture on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Starting in the middle, place the cherry halves in a single layer, face down, over all of the cream cheese mixture. Fold the excess dough over the edge of the filling, pleating as you go. Brush the melted butter along the exposed crust with a pastry brush.

Slide the galette, parchment paper and all, onto preheated baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. When edges are browned, remove pan from oven. Slide the parchment paper and galette onto a wire cooling rack to prevent it from getting soggy while it cools.

Enjoy while slightly warm or at room temperature. Or, store covered in the fridge for up to 4 days and let come to room temperature before serving. If desired, garnish with curls of dark chocolate once cooled.

Fig and honeyed mascarpone galette

Fig season! Who can complain? Well obviously I can, because you know what sucks about figs? Because of their delicate nature, they’re so often in those horrible plastic clamshell packages to protect them during shipping. If you buy prepackaged figs, you’re going to end up with at least a couple that were picked too early. It’s my understanding that when you pick a fig too early, it will “ripen” on the counter in the sense that it will get softer. But that complex, oozy, honey-sweet taste? Not gonna happen.

So when my friend Laura told me that there’s a fruit bearing fig-tree in a park near my house? Shut the front door!

At the earliest opportunity, I rode my bike over there with a grocery-bag lined backpack, a vision of fig-filled galette running through my head. And then? I couldn’t find the damn tree if my life had depended on it. I texted Laura for further clarification of the location (what I actually asked was “uhhh, can you send me the Google Maps coordinates?”). I rode around for a bit waiting for a reply, and then remembered, oh yeah. She’s in Tanzania.

She hopped on the internet that weekend to email me a screenshot of the Google Map (and presumably do other things). But for this galette I had already filled my cart at the grocery store. It was still delicious, and, I must warn you, almost tooth-achingly sweet. It’s perfect for a brunch spread, especially since it can be made ahead of time and will hold in the fridge for several days. If you wanted it to, it could function as a dessert — seriously, all those figs make it fit for the most hardcore sweet tooth.

fig and honeyed mascarpone galette

Fig and Honeyed Mascarpone Galette
Crust from Sweet Galette Dough by David Lebovitz for Fine Cooking

Serves 6-8

Crust
11 1/4 ounces (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
5 ounces very cold water

Galette
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe figs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
super flaky sea salt, to garnish

Stir flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add chilled butter and pulse until crumbly, but distinct chunks of butter remain — really, big chunks are good!Add ice water, then process just until dough comes together, no more than 30 seconds. Turn dough onto work surface and gather and knead together just slightly. If is fine if you see streaks of butter on the surface, as this is what will give you delightful flakiness. Divide into two equal pieces and shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (This galette only requires one disc of dough. Wrap the other very well and freeze for later use, thawing in the fridge for one day before using.)

While dough is chilling, stir honey and orange blossom water into mascarpone until fully combined. Then slice figs into quarters.

Preheat oven with baking sheet or pizza pan in it to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll one disc of chilled dough out into an approximate circle about 13 inches in diameter. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper.

Spread mascarpone mixture on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Layer fig quarters in concentric circles on top of the mascarpone. Don’t worry about being perfect — it’s rustic! Fold the excess dough over the edge of the filling, pleating as you go. Brush the melted butter along the exposed crust with a pastry brush.

Slide the galette, parchment paper and all, onto preheated baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. When edges are browned, remove pan from oven. Slide the parchment paper and galette onto a wire cooling rack to prevent it from getting soggy while it cools.

Enjoy while slightly warm or at room temperature. Or, store covered in the fridge for up to 4 days and let come to room temperature before serving. Sprinkle with a bit of super flaky sea salt just before eating for added flavor and crunch.

Pride rainbow flag cookies

It’s almost Baltimore Pride!

My friends Liz and Kendall are tailgating in the Lesbian Lot tomorrow, and sometimes I think I am physically incapable of going somewhere without making something to eat or drink. I wanted to make something properly festive and queer, and I figured Pride is as good of an excuse as any to ingest a bunch of no-good-for-you but oh-so-cute artificial food coloring.

Hello rainbow flag cookies!

pride rainbow flag cookies

Layered cookies are nothing new — I’d be impressed if you haven’t yet seen the Cinco de Mayo piñata cookies that took the internet by storm a few years ago. Luckily, a flag shape doesn’t require any special cookie cutters. All you need is a sharp knife and a rainbow of gel food colors to transform these basic, buttery cookies into pride flags.

In order to make perfect little flags, you have to trim some dough off the edges. Don’t toss it! Pinch off equal sized portions of the scraps, then roll into balls and flatten for little tie-dye cookies.

tie-dye scrap cookies

Please note: it’s hot outside right now, so pretty much every other step in this recipe is “put it in the freezer!” If it is cold in your kitchen while you are making these, you may not have to do as much chilling. But for me, the slightly warm kitchen combined with the pound of butter (yep) and I had to chill a lot.

Happy Pride!

Pride Rainbow Flag Cookies
Adapted from Slice and Bake Cookies by smitten kitchen

Makes 30 – 35 cookies

4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
gel food color — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat again until combined. Add egg yolks, extracts, and salt and beat again until smooth. Add the flour, then beat on low until almost combined. Fold the rest of the way with a spatula and work into a rough ball. Put dough into a storage container and freeze for 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn dough onto counter and divide into 6 equal portions. I used my food scale to make sure everything was pretty darn close. Put one ball on a parchment-lined surface, and wear powder-free latex gloves if you don’t want to potentially stain your hands. Use a toothpick to transfer a small amount of one gel food color from the container to the piece of dough. Knead dough in your hands until the color is fully integrated and no longer streaky. Add more color as desired to increase saturation, but start small and move up. A little goes a long way!

Once dough has achieved desired color, roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, then place in the fridge. Repeat the process with the remaining colors. Chill dough balls for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can stand it.

Prep a small baking sheet (I use a quarter size baking sheet) with a piece of plastic wrap to build up your cookie loaf on.

Remove the purple dough ball from the fridge and place on a piece of parchment paper or Silpat. I also use a piece of plastic wrap on top to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. Roll out and shape into a roughly 4″ x 10″ rectangle. Place on plastic wrap covered baking sheet and carefully peel back Silpat/parchment to remove.

Place the whole pan in the freezer while you prepare the blue rectangle. Then repeat, centering the blue one over the purple one. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat with green, yellow, orange, and red, keeping the pan in the freezer whenever you’re not using it.

Once your loaf is complete, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, then in a freezer bag, and freeze for at least 2 hours and up to 1 month.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

Remove dough loaf from fridge or freezer. Using a very sharp knife, trim about 1/3 of an inch on each side to even up the edges.

Cut 1/4-inch slices from the loaf, then place on baking sheets with about 2 inches between each cookie. (I was able to fit 10 cookies per half-size baking sheet. While I was waiting for one of my baking sheets to free up, I put the loaf — surprise — back in the freezer.)

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are firm but not yet brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Old Bay cheese crackers at Let’s Give Peas a Chance

Today I wrote a guest post for my friend Ann Marie, another Baltimore-based vegetarian food blogger, at her blog Let’s Give Peas a Chance. As a fellow Baltimorean, I knew Ann Marie would appreciate a snack highlighting everyone’s favorite Chesapeake-region seasoning. Hop on over today to find my recipe for Old Bay Cheese Crackers and say hello to Ann Marie!

Old Bay cheese crackers

Guinness-chocolate cupcakes with Baileys-whiskey buttercream, that we are not calling “Blankish blank blank cupcakes”

So y’all, I’m gonna be real. Those drinks with Guinness, Baileys and Irish whiskey? You know, the ones that taste like a chocolate milkshake when they go down as long as you chug it before it curdles? And all of the cutesy baked goods that are inspired by those flavors? You know what I’m talking about, right?

That name has got to go.

Naming a cocktail with a crass joke about terrorism? Not cute.

I’m not saying that nobody should ever be allowed to make crass jokes by way of cocktail names. You’re allowed to. But I think that if you’re going to order something like that, you should know you’re making a statement. The statement being, “I’m a bit of a dick.”

Maybe I’m being too generous, but I think a lot of people order this drink or make these cupcakes and don’t even think about what the name means. Someone who doesn’t know anything about the Troubles in Ireland might not realize that they are ordering what, in different circumstances, might be a “9/11 flaming Twin Towers”. Even if you like dark humor, it’s generally not something you inflict on (drunk) strangers.

I’m of the opinion that if someone tells you something is offensive to them, you should believe them and not think they’re just “being overly sensitive.” And plenty of people have said that the name of this cocktail is offensive.

I also think that you should make an effort to not say the offensive thing around them, and reconsider saying it at all, especially around people you don’t know. And the internet is full of people you don’t know.

Yeah, it’s a “bomb” style cocktail. Yeah, it’s made with ingredients from Ireland. But there really has to be something better to call it.

Now, I’m not so sure about the cocktail. But thanks to a commenter from this awesome thread about boozy desserts on The Hairpin, there’s definitely a better name for the cupcakes: Finnegans Cakes! Irish and filled with booze, just like the cupcakes.

Finnegans cakes

So make these for St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow. Both are ostensibly Irish, but actually an American construct entirely. Perfect!

Finnegans cakes

Finnegans Cakes
Adapted from Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes by Smitten Kitchen

Makes 24 cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Frosting:
5-6 cups confections sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Baileys
1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Line 2 muffin pans with 24 paper liners and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium pot over medium heat, bring Guinness and butter to a simmer. Whisk in cocoa powder until lump-free. Set aside to cool briefly.

In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt until combined.

In the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together eggs and sour cream until combined. Add Guinness mixture and beat again briefly until combined. Then pour in dry ingredients and beat again briefly — there should still be some white streaks left. Fold together the rest of the way with a spatula until fully combined.

Divide evenly into muffin tins — each cavity should be 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Pop in the oven and bake for about 17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. (Swap positions and rotate halfway through if your oven heats unevenly.)

Let cool briefly in tins. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

The plain cupcakes can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for a couple of weeks, as long as they are in airtight containers. Or, once they’ve completely cooled… frost them!

With your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the butter until very light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, whipping well in between each addition. Once the frosting is very thick and no longer incorporating, add the Baileys and Irish whiskey and whip again until combined and fluffy. If needed, add a little more powdered sugar to bring to desired texture.

Put into a piping bag with a tip of your choice, or just spread the frosting on with a knife. (If you don’t pipe, you’ll probably have some frosting leftover.)

Happy New Year! Make this Baltimore pull-apart bread to bring to brunch tomorrow.

Do you have a brunch to go to tomorrow? I hope so. New Year’s Day is the perfect day for brunch.

And this is the perfect thing to bring to a brunch.

Baltimore pull-apart bread

Especially if there are Old Bay bloody marys involved. Make the dough right now and let it rise in the fridge overnight. When you wake up tomorrow, you’ll have to get it out on the counter to rise for an hour, but then you can spend most of that time waking up the rest of the way until you actually have to do anything with it.

So, a lot of the pull-apart bread recipes out there are sweet rather than savory. It makes sense. This is basically a different shape for monkey bread, after all. But Deb over at Smitten Kitchen made a savory version inspired by Welsh rarebit and I knew I had to do something. I knew I had to give it the Baltimore treatment.

So obviously there’s a mess of Old Bay added to it.

Old Bay cheddar cheese

Aside from the immediately obvious, I used one of my favorite local Baltimore brews in the dough — Heavy Seas. Loose Cannon, which is an IPA, worked beautifully in it — though I intended to make it with the Peg Leg, an imperial stout, which was out of stock when I stopped by the liquor store. I think it would also be delightful with Black Cannon, the seasonal black IPA which just became available. Go get some! Even if just to drink it. Man, it’s so good. I’m not even a huge IPA person.

If you can’t get Heavy Seas in your region, just go for something that you like to drink, preferably something a bit dark. Or, you know, take a road trip to get some beer.

Baltimore pull-apart bread

Baltimore Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread by Smitten Kitchen

Dough:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup Heavy Seas beer
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 1/3 cup flour, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant (active dry) yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Filling:
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon mustard (I used Dijon)
1 heaping tablespoon Old Bay (I used low sodium)
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 heaping cups)

First off, dough time. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the 4 tablespoons of butter with 1/4 cup beer until butter is just barely melted. Remove from heat and add remaining beer, then set aside to cool. If you have one, pop a thermometer in there — you want the mixture to be between 110 and 116 degrees. If you don’t, you want it to be warm to the touch, not hot.

Drink the rest of the beer. You deserve it.

While the butter/beer cools, prep your dry ingredients. In the bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast, and salt until combined. With the mixer on low, pour in the warm butter/beer mixture and let stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Add eggs, one at a time, and stir until just combined. Add the remaining all purpose flour and again stir until just combined.

Replace the paddle with the dough hook and turn the mixer on low. Let knead for 3-4 minutes, until dough is not quite as lumpy. It will still be wet and sticky.

Oil a medium bowl and transfer dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, until doubled in size. If you want to get this part over with before you’re battling a hangover, this is where you’d let the dough rest in the fridge overnight — wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. The next day, let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour while you prepare the filling.

Speaking of filling: using the large holes on a box grater or your food processor, grate your cheddar cheese. Put in a storage container, dump the Old Bay on top, close it up, and shakeshakeshake. Pop it in the fridge while you’re waiting.

In your same small saucepan from before (no need to wash it out if you’re doing this all at once), melt your 3 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Once melted, stir in mustard and set aside.

Now it’s time to put it all together. First, spray or butter a 9″x5″ loaf pan and set aside.

Turn risen dough onto a floured work area, then roll out into a 20″x12″ rectangle. It may try to stick here and there, so pull it up every once in a while and add more flour as needed. Brush butter/mustard over the entire surface of the dough, all the way to the very edges. Really glop it on there. Then cut the dough into 5 4″x12″ strips — a pizza cutter is very handy for this.

Evenly sprinkle one buttered dough strip with a generously heaping 1/4 cup of Old Bay coated cheddar. Gently pick up the next dough strip and place it on top of the cheese. Repeat with all of your strips, ending with more cheese on top.

With a serrated knife, very gently and slowly, as gently and slowly as you can possibly manage, cut your dough stack into 6 to 7 segments, 2″x4″ each. The dough may or may not have stretched a tad bit with all that lifting and such, but it’s fine either way. Really.

Prop your loaf pan up on one short end to make this next part a little easier. Lift each segment, using a spatula if that helps, and plop it in the “bottom” of the pan, that is, on the short end. A 4″ wide cut end should be facing out towards you. Stack the rest of the dough pieces on top in the same way until your loaf pan is filled. If it’s a little under-filled, just shake it a bit to distribute the pieces. If you have more than it seems will fit, just squeeze everything together to jam the last bits in there. Once again, cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30 to 45 minutes.

When appropriate, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pop the risen loaf in there and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until puffy and brown and the bits of cheese peeking out are bubbly and crisp.

Let cool in the pan for five minutes, then turn out to a cutting board. For the best pull-apart experience, enjoy warm and fresh. If it has cooled down and refuses to peel apart, use a serrated knife to cut thin slices. Or just continue to tear bits and pieces off like a pack of wolves, I won’t tell.

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.

Poutine home fries, when you need to indulge

We’ve been trying to eat healthier lately. Lots of salads.

See, my mister got hit by a car while he was on his bike several months ago. Broken collarbone, surgery, physical therapy, and no running or biking for about two months. This was extra unfortunate, because he had just started training for the Army Ten Miler that he’s running in October. He’s tip top now, except for having a rod and some screws in his shoulder. (Despite the worries from apparently everyone, he does not set off the metal detector at the airport.) But he missed a lot of training time, and got a bit out of shape when he was unable to exercise.

I, on the other hand, am a bit out of shape just because my main form of exercise is getting down on all fours and chasing her around the house.

So, we’re trying to eat healthier.

But sometimes you have to indulge yourself, right? Sometimes you just need to eat a disgustingly huge pile of greasy potatoes, cheese, and gravy.

poutine home fries

Poutine Home Fries
Serves 2

5 smallish-mediumish red skin or yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons butter*
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 heaping teaspoon Marmite
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
4-6 oz white cheddar cheese curds*
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and dry your potatoes, then dice ‘em up. Leave those skins on — fiber makes it healthy, right?

Preheat a cast iron skillet over low heat, then add oil and heat until it shimmers and easily coats the bottom of the pan.

Add diced potatoes and a few dashes of salt and grinds of pepper, then stir to coat and cover. Cook covered over low heat, flipping with a metal spatula occasionally to prevent sticking, for 20-25 minutes until fork tender.

While potatoes are cooking, microwave water in a measuring cup with a spout for 2 minutes or until hot. Then add nutritional yeast, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Marmite, pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder; stir to dissolve. Put the 1/2 teaspoon with the Marmite directly into the water and stir to ensure that all of that weirdly delicious paste dissolves off the teaspoon into the broth.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add flour and cook, whisking frequently with a gravy whisk, until it turns light brown and no longer smells like raw flour. You have a roux!

While whisking constantly, slowly pour the broth into the roux. Do not add it too quickly or your gravy will take forever to thicken up properly. It will get very thick as you pour the liquid in slowly, and you’ll have to whisk aggressively along the bottom to make sure everything gets integrated. Make sure to scrape any sludge from the bottom of the measuring cup in there, too.

Once all of your liquid has been added, continue to whisk constantly until your gravy is smooth. Leave over medium-low heat and let cook for 8-10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until gravy is sufficiently thickened. Take a taste and add more salt if needed — just remember that you’ve salted your potatoes and the cheese curds will be salty as well.

While your gravy thickens, check to see if your potatoes are fork tender yet. When they are, raise heat to medium-high and brown the potatoes. Keep a close eye and flip frequently to prevent burning.

Scoop browned potatoes onto two plates. Add 2-3 ounces of cheese curds to the top of each potato pile. Smother with gravy, and let sit for a minute or so until the cheese curds start to melt. Grab fork, shovel into your mouth, repeat.

* To make this recipe vegan, substitute olive oil or vegan margarine for the butter when making the roux for the gravy. Cut up some hearty chunks of a cheddar Daiya wedge to substitute the cheese curds.