Heat Things Up: Summer Veggie Jalapeño Dip

Summer Jalapeno Dip

There is so much to love at the Farmer’s Market. Baskets of sweet, fuzzy peaches and juicy, red tomatoes. Lush bouquets of herbs and flowers. Pints of spicy jalapeño peppers that call out your name, yet once home hide in the refrigerator until they are so wrinkled you suspect they found a way to take a long bath.

Hmm, how to use those ugly, wrinkly, yet still very edible jalapeño peppers? Cue the music and enter cream cheese. Unless it gets dropped in a pile of dirt, I can’t imagine anything formed with cream cheese could turn out badly.

Summer Vegetable Jalapeno Dip

Taking a nod from a warm dip chock full of sweet corn and jalapeño peppers – a dip my friend Dawn is required to bring to each and every get together less she lose our friendship – I decided to make my own sweet corn and jalapeño pepper dip, complete with juicy, red tomatoes. If you want to add meat, many jalapeño dip recipes include 1/2 cup of bacon in place of tomatoes or corn.

I baked the dip in an 8-x-8 inch dish, and while it made a fine proportion for snacking purposes, I would recommend doubling or tripling the recipe for sharing with larger groups. I preferred the dip right out of the oven, but it reheated well both in the oven and the microwave.

 

Despite my love of baking sweet treats, one of my favorite snacks is salty chips paired with a creamy dip. This summer veggie jalapeño dip allowed me to indulge in snacking and still feel like I was eating healthy because of all the vegetables. Allow me my delusions please. Enjoy!

Summer Vegetable Jalapeno Dip

Summer Veggie Jalapeno Dip
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1, 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise or plain, Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup jalapeno peppers, deseeded and diced (about 5 jalapenos)
  • ½ cup tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup corn
  • ½ cup cheddar or Mexican-blend grated cheese
  • ½ cup cracker or bread crumbs for topping, if desired
Instructions
  1. Mix together the cream cheese and mayonnaise or Greek yogurt until creamy.
  2. Add the jalapenos, tomatoes, corn, and cheese, mixing until well combined.
  3. Pour the mixture into an 8-by-8 baking dish and top with cracker or bread crumbs if using.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until the dip is bubbling around the edges and/or the topping is browned.
  5. Remove the dip from the oven, allow to cool slightly, then serve warm.
 

Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

Chinese Five Spice Cupcakes

I have recently experienced a fair share of writer’s block. Shortly after shouting out thanks for “the words that always arrive to fill the page,” writing blog posts has been extremely tough going. I have no idea what I am going to write until I actually sit down to post. This bothers me.

I like to have an idea of my main topic prior to sitting down to write. I have an extreme dislike of staring at a blank page as I find it does nothing but stare right back. The only thing left to do when this occurs is to stop thinking and start doing.

I begin spewing words across the page in hopes one or two will lead to an idea worth sharing. Today I noticed my overwhelmingly desire both to get things done ahead of time and know how things will turn out is an ongoing problem.

I thought back to my first quarter of my first graduate school experience (I am the poster child for why higher education is overrated, but that is a story for another time. Or to reiterate: Stop thinking about doing it. Start doing it.) Small groups of students were chatting throughout the classroom. I do not recall what we were supposed to be doing, but we were talking about how we were adapting to grad school.

Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes

For me, the adjustment was not all that severe. I’d spent the past four years in Columbus, so aside from moving from the campus area to German Village, I did not need to familiarize myself with much. So instead of wondering about campus – like many of my classmates who completed their undergrad degrees at other schools – I worried about getting stuff done.

I was carrying on about how I had not yet, on Monday, written a paper that was due on Thursday. A classmate, Roberta, did her best to look at me like I wasn’t out of my mind as she said, “It sounds like you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself.” Really? You mean feeling stressed over something days ahead in the future is counter-productive? Come on, really?

Here’s the deal.  Not everyone is motivated in the same way, but I once read that worrying is like praying for something bad to happen. As much as I crave a schedule, once I took Roberta’s advice to heart, I began to realize how peaceful taking one day a time could be. And when I actually began work as a hospice social worker, literally dealing with the forces of life and death that paid no mind to schedules, I was forced to go with the flow.

Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes

Living each day at a time has taken nearly a decade of practice. It is not always easy to stay in the present moment when I think about how perfect my life will be when I when reach so-and-so milestone. It is easy to get back to the present moment by remembering I do not want to lose my life to the “if onlys”. If only I were thinner…if only I were wealthier…if only I had ordered dessert. ;)

What these gems have to do with Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes and Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting, I cannot say. Perhaps because I have been thinking about their future existence in my kitchen since I sampled one at Savory Spice Shop a few weeks ago. The moment I popped one of these babies in my mouth, I knew I’d be back for Chinese Five Spice.

The carrot cupcakes, baked with Chinese Five Spice and crushed pineapple, are delicious. Topped with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting, they are out of this world. I know, I know, it’s July and it’s hot everywhere, but these cupcakes are worth turning on the oven. Then you can eat them with ice cream. Enjoy!

Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes

 

Chinese Five Spice Carrot Cupcakes with Ginger Frosting
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 13
Ingredients
  • For the cupcakes
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded carrots (3 to 4 medium sized carrots)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup crushed pineapple
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • For the frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: crystalized ginger for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, Chinese Five Spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the carrots, sugar, vegetable oil, crushed pineapple, eggs, and vanilla.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl, and beat until just combined.
  4. Fill each well of a muffin pan lined with paper liners about ¾ full with batter.
  5. Bake at 350F for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  7. To make the frosting, place the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and ground ginger in mixing bowl and beat until combined.
  8. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time, beating until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  9. If desired, garnish the cupcakes with crystalized ginger.
 

Seeing Green: Coconut Kale Smoothie

Coconut Kale Smoothie

Green.  It signals go. Americans spend greenbacks. Gardeners have green thumbs. Performers wait in green rooms. The green movement is changing the way we think about the environment. We turn green with envy. And why, oh why, is it that the grass is always greener on the other side?

It’s the eye-color of monsters. Those with superpowers, like the Green Hornet, the Green Lantern, the Green Giant, and the Incredible Hulk happen to prefer it. My favorite Powerpuff girl, Buttercup, wears green while she fights crime in Townsville. In my early years, I preferred green candies and green Slush Puppies. Today, I love fried green tomatoes!

Coconut Kale Smoothie

Green is the color of the heart Chakra, and I once had someone tell me, “under your heart is the prettiest shade of green.” That was interesting. Kermit told us It Ain’t Easy Being Green.

Do me a favor. Look around and count how many shades of green you see.  I recently counted 20 shades of green just from my viewpoint in the front yard! I then learned  the color green “occupies more space in the spectrum visible to the human eye” than any other color, hence “the human eye is most sensitive and able to discern the most shades in that color.”

Coconut Kale Smoothie

This Coconut-Kale smoothie gets the green light. Smoothies, particularly green smoothies, have been popular posts on the internet as of late. Jumping on the bandwagon, I turned to a recipe I have had hanging on my refrigerator for the past few months.

The smoothie’s green color is daunting. My grandfather refused to eat anything blue. This was not overwhelmingly problemeatic as aside from blue cornmealblueberries, and blue buttercream roses, one encounters blue in very few foods. Prior to trying this smoothie, I had an aversion to green drinks. Green vegetables, fine. Green drinks, not so much.

Coconut Kale Smoothie

Though I sometimes post my failed attempts recipes under the guise of learning experiences, I will never post a recipe that I would not feed to my family or share with my friends. So when I promise you this Coconut Kale smoothie is good, I promise that it really is good! I have enjoyed a few of these smoothies for breakfast, and as you can see here, I have also enjoyed one with a dollop of ice cream like a smoothie shake!

I used a banana more on the green (of course) than on the ripe side (I prefer bananas that are just barely yellow), and I was happy with the sweetness it provided. If you are like me and inevitably end up with bananas that turn from yellow to brown before you can enjoy them, you may save these ripe bananas for baking. Since it’s too hot to turn on the oven, throw one of those overly ripe bananas into a smoothie instead. Go for it!

Coconut Kale Smoothie

4.0 from 2 reviews
Coconut Kale Smoothie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large banana, frozen
  • 2-3 kale leaves (including stalks)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or coconut water)
  • 6 ice cubes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Optional: agave syrup or honey for sweetness
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend for 35 seconds or until ice is blended smooth.
  3. If desired, sweeten with a bit of agave syrup or honey.
Notes
Top off with ice cream for a sweeter, dessert smoothie.