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Appetizers & Snacks

Appetizers & Snacks

Chipotle-Lime Spinach Dip

DSC_0377 Here in Texas you can find a dip for just about any chip. Texans love dip. There’s no question about it.

I attended a cookie decorating party last month and when I asked the host if I could bring anything besides myself, she said to bring some kind of appetizer. Something simple, she said. I considered my audience and a dip immediately came to mind.

While perusing through some cookbooks this recipe jumped square off the page. It’s actually titled “The Best Spinach Dip with Chipotle and Lime” in my copy of The Essential New York Times Cookbook. I was immediately skeptical until I read through the ingredient list. I loved the flavor combination: spinach, chipotle chilies, fresh cilantro, and fresh lime juice.

Is it the best? It’s definitely the best spinach dip I’ve ever tasted. Is it delicious? Absolutely. The chipotle chilies add smokiness while the lime juice adds brightness. I modified the original recipe and added more chipotle chilies and lime juice than the original recipe called for. I also used crème fraîche in place of sour cream, because it’s what I had on hand.

Because acid has a tendency to dull the vivid green color found in spinach, make this dip the same day you plan to enjoy it. Pairs well with sporting events (like the Super Bowl), and your favorite tortilla chips.

The Best Spinach Dip with Chipotle and Lime

Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser

Yield: about 3 cups


  • Two 10 ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche (you can use sour cream, but I had crème fraîche on hand)
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
  • juice of one small lime
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Tortilla chips, for serving


  1. Bundle the spinach in a clean towel and squeeze out all excess moisture. You want it to be dry and free of all excess moisture as much as possible.
  2. Combine the rest of the ingredients (except the spinach and the tortilla chips) in your food processor and puree until smooth. About 90 to 120 seconds.
  3. Add the spinach – making sure to break it up into smaller pieces by hand – and pulse until all the ingredients are just combined. Taste for seasoning and balance.
  4. Garnish with some chopped cilantro, salt and pepper and serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
Appetizers & Snacks

Cognac Fig Jam

Although I own both a water canner and pressure cooker, I have shied away from producing anything that needed to be canned. Botulism scares the living daylights out of me. You will never see Botox in my face.

With that said, I strive to make small quantities that can be eaten quickly by two people.  We’re talking no more than a cup or so at a time. I found some beautiful kadota figs on sale at my supermarket, so I purchased a pound and got to brainstorming on a jam recipe. I really loved this recipe‘s simplicity of ingredients, but I found the amount of sugar to be a bit excessive, so I scaled it back. Fresh figs already taste like they’re drenched in honey. How much more sugar could they possibly need?

What I eventually ended up with was this beautiful jam to enjoy with a cheese plate. The Cognac adds the right amount of complexity and bite. This was delicious immediately after it was made, but it went the extra mile and the flavors continued to improve in the fridge. Right now, I’m experimenting with some Bourbon to create a cocktail recipe that includes this jam as an ingredient, but for now here’s the formula to make your very own batch.


Cognac Fig Jam

 (adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine) 


  • 1 pound ripe figs (I used kadota)
  • 3 Tablespoons cognac or brandy (I used VSOP Cognac)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt.

Using a vegetable peeler remove the bright yellow rind from 1/2 a lemon. Finely mince the lemon peel and set aside.

Wash and remove the stems from the figs, and cut them into quarters. Add them to a medium size saucepan. (I used a 2 quart for this) along with the lemon peel, sugar, Cognac, and salt. Allow the mixture to macerate for about a half hour, stirring occasionally. Once the figs have released a fair amount of liquid bring the entire mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Once the mixture comes up to a boil reduce heat to medium low and allow to cook until jam thickens and you can no longer smell the cognac, about 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning.

Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge until you see mold. That’s how we roll in this house.

Appetizers & Snacks

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Sometimes life happens and it can make you sad, and I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be okay.

My moment of sadness happened last week when I bought tomatoes at my supermarket. Summer is their time to shine, and they should be the best they’re ever going to be: fresh, ripe, and delicious. Sadly, this was NOT the case. Mine lacked serious flavor and juice. It was an epic fail.

Sadly, this has happened to us all at one time or another. We live in the land of round-the-clock tomato availability, and they can range from being mealy and flavorless in January to bright and fresh in July. Here’s a trick I employ from time to time to coax the maximum amount of flavor out of them. Minimal effort is required on my part. I don’t even have to peel them, because that task is easier once they’re finished cooking. These are a kitchen staple, and you can add them to sautés, sauces, stews, or eat them cold straight from the fridge on top of your favorite sandwich. The possibilities here are really endless.


10 Hour Tomatoes

  • 2 lbs tomatoes of your choosing, cored and halved
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 Tsp fresh thyme, finely minced
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste.


Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash, halve, and core your tomatoes. Place them face up on your baking sheet. If there are any of them that won’t sit perfectly upright, slice a little bit off of their round bottoms to level them out.

Combine the garlic, fresh thyme, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Drizzle over the tomato flesh. Add a little shower of salt and pepper if you like your food highly seasoned. I know I do.

Pop the entire sheet into the oven and walk away.  This is a great task to complete right before bedtime. That’s if you’re comfortable with the oven being on while you’re sleeping. Once they’re finished they should look a little like this:


The garlic mellows, and the tomato flavor is intensified. Cooking really doesn’t get any easier than this, folks.  Seriously, it really doesn’t.