Baked Tortilla Chips with 7-layer Dip

As of right now we are in Day 2 of the 2nd week of “adverse weather conditions” – which means that we are all at home again. The children are home from school, no extra-curricular activities to rush off to, no cooking classes to teach or buses to catch. This comes directly after we spent a week shut in doors with the stomach flu. Kai is spending his free time working on magic tricks and JP is writing a story.  I’m borderline obsessed with the iPhone game “Wordscapes” and may finally finish needle felting the garland I started back in July. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to step back and think. Flexibility is not always my strong suit so it’s good to flex that muscle.

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As you know, I love cookies, candy and holidays. Yet, sometimes its nice to celebrate without relying solely on sugar and chocolate (though we will have plenty of that as well), which is partly why I love this recipe so much. The heart chips and dip are festive and delicious, while also being useful as a lunch or snack. Win win!

This layered dip is so easy! I like that the bean layer is extra thick and the red peppers add a welcome crunch and sweetness to keep it all in balance. Most 7 layer dip recipes use taco seasoning but I know I didn’t miss it here. Of course, the heart chips steal the show. Tortilla chips are a staple around our house and I could’ve definitely used them but those hearts are too cute!

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This baked tortilla chips and 7 layer dip recipe was a great project to do with my bored children as well. They had fun cutting out the shapes, brushing them with olive oil and sprinkling the sea salt on top. A quick bake in the oven and snack was ready to go. Now I just need to decide on our Valentine’s Day dessert.

Baked Tortilla Chip Hearts

I find that flour tortillas work best for baking. Corn tortillas seem to turn out a little more tough and chewy where flour tortillas turn crisp. To cut the shapes, press firmly and wiggle the cookie cutter so that the tortilla is cut all the way through.

Using a small and medium cookie cutter, I was able to get ten heart shaped cut outs from one tortilla.

Feel free to double or triple this depending on how many people need feeding.

Serves 1-2

Ingredients:

  • 1 large burrito sized flour tortilla
  • 1 tablespoon olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons flake sea salt

Directions:

Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut shapes out of flour tortilla and set on baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat with oil and then sprinkle with flake salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until tortilla is crisp, puffy and slightly golden along the edges. Let cool before eating. Best eaten the day they are made.

Individual 7-layer Dip Cups

Easily doubled, tripled and adjusted for personal tastes. If a smaller cup is used, then 1/2 recipe and only make one layer. I bet that 4 oz mason jars would work amazingly well for toddler sized portions.

Serves 1 hungry child

Ingredients:

  • 1- 9 oz clear cup (I used Chinex) but any low, wide cup or jar would do
  • 1/4 cup refried beans (I use Annie’s Traditional)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced black olives, drained
  • Salsa for topping, optional

Directions:

Using a spoon, spread 2 tablespoons refried beans on the bottom of the cup. Next, spread 1 tablespoon sour cream and top with 2 tablespoons cheddar cheese. Finally, sprinkle 1 tablespoon each red bell pepper and black olives. Repeat with beans, sour cream, cheese, red pepper and black olives. Finish with salsa if desired. Serve with homemade tortilla chips and a spoon. Cover leftovers with saran wrap and store in the refrigerator. These can be made ahead of time but wait to top with salsa until ready to serve.

 

 

 

The Tastiest Bite

I don’t think of myself as a writer. Growing up, my twin sister was the writer. I wrote in a journal nightly and spent just as much time devouring books as she did; but I always saw it as her thing. She seemed better at it and more determined. Rebekah knew it was what she wanted. Maybe I didn’t want to be a copy cat or was tired of the twin cliche but I never thought writing would be my line of work. Finding myself at a food writing workshop was as surprising to me as discovering I like to cook, especially after all those years telling myself I didn’t.

For me, food writing is a form of self reflection (something I clearly need more of). It’s about slowing down and focusing on what was just in my mouth. Remembering the textures, colors and feelings that the food elicits. In an attempt to improve this skill, Naomi Tomky suggests this exercise: write 200 words on the best food eaten that day.

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Day 1

The Tastiest Bite(s) on Valentine’s Day

I had many memorable bites yesterday, much more than a normal Wednesday. An ethereal, creamy vegetable soup topped with crisp speck and cold goat cheese was generously handed to me for lunch by a thoughtful friend at The Shop. Before leaving, I was given a decadent piece of chocolate cake layered with blood orange Italian buttercream. Both warmed my heart and made my taste buds dance in delight.

I was also surprised with chocolate covered strawberries by another friend yesterday afternoon. In all honesty, chocolate and fruit aren’t my favorite combination but these strawberries changed my opinion. They looked so inviting on the tray with the thick coat of dark chocolate enveloping the juicy strawberry.  I picked a strawberry up by its green top and took a bite. The thick chocolate shell shattered to reveal the ruby strawberry inside. My mouth was filled with both flavors simultaneously. Soft, sweet and juicy strawberry with bitter, crunchy chocolate.

My Valentine and I drank a special brut rosé that I had saved since receiving it at Christmas from my brother and sister-in-law and it did not disappoint. After dinner was done and the kids were almost tucked into bed, I heard the familiar whirl of our popcorn maker. This was definitely not our normal Wednesday. Warm and kissed with butter and salt, we cuddled on the couch munching popcorn as we watched our Olympians fly down the mountain. Love came in many forms on Valentine’s Day but most memorably was the sharing of food and drink together.

What was your tastiest bite yesterday?

 

Fresh Strawberry Jello & Whipped Cream

We’ve been touring middle schools this week (!!!) and I’m having to come face to face with the reality that yes, this is happening. I’m as nervous and excited as my son is. I feel the desperate desire to cling to every shard of his childhood, yet I have to remind myself that this is the whole point of raising our children. We want them to grow up and become the fullest version of themselves. It’s a new phase, yet reminds me of when we were getting ready to start kindergarten. Which school is best for him? Will he be able to remember his schedule and locker combination? Will he make friends? The truth is yes and no. It won’t be perfectly smooth but this is the truth of life. We learn and grow and change.

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In an attempt to help myself make this transition to the middle school years, I have been reading a book called “Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World“. This book was recommended to me by a friend and WOW is it eye opening. I really appreciate how the book highlights how the relationship between son and parent changes. It gives us practical advice that actually comes from teenage boys. We get to see situations through their eyes and gain wisdom from those parents that have gone before us. Effective parenting, it seems, is a balance between letting our boys grow up and make mistakes while loving and supporting them through this complicated and complex world. Wish us luck.

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This is the consistency of the puree that is ready to be simmered.

Thankfully, February is one of my favorite months of the year. I love any excuse to shower the people I love with affection. especially if it involves something from the kitchen. I found these little heart shaped ramekins and knew immediately what I wanted to fill them with. When JP was two, I had a Valentine’s Day party at our house. We had heart themed activities and bright red jello cut in heart shapes for snack. I may not be able to turn back the clock but this is the beauty of food. It holds the memories for us, connecting our past with our present.

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Adding the gelatin

I think it’s time for jello to get an upgrade. Let’s do away with the watery, jiggly, artificial tasting, neon jello of our youth. This jello has everything good: a strong strawberry flavor (that is actually from strawberries), a firm texture, and a beautiful ruby color. I like how it feels in my mouth as the gelatin softens. The sweetened whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment to the juicy strawberries. Strawberries and cream are a classic combination in any form, but heart shaped might just be the sweetest of them all.

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Most of the gelatin has been absorbed into the puree. Give it a little whisk before adding it to the hot strawberry mixture. This will make it easier to not have lumps.

Fresh Strawberry Jello & Whipped Cream

Strawberries and cream are a classic combination that illicit happy memories of spring. Being a bit impatient for the perfect strawberries to arrive at the grocery store, I found that this recipe appeased my strawberry craving. Frozen strawberries are a good option to use here if fresh are not optimal. This recipe is adapted from the Knox gelatin package.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ripe strawberries, washed and hulled; or frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 2 packages unflavored gelatin (I use Knox brand)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 small lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Whipping Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

Puree strawberries in a blender, using a little water if needed to thin. You should have 2 cups of strawberry puree that is the consistency of heavy cream or slightly thicker. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the puree into a medium pot. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar, salt and lemon juice and stir. Bring to a simmer on medium heat. It should taste delicious at this point, full of strawberry flavor and just sweet enough to be pleasing to the palate. Adjust as needed.

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup puree into a wide bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top and don’t stir. The gelatin should mostly dissolve into the liquid but don’t worry if some still remains on the top. The back of the Knox package suggests 1 minute.

Once the strawberry mixture is at a simmer, take it off the heat and whisk gelatin mixture before adding it to the hot strawberry puree. Whisk to incorporate the gelatin mixture. There may be some lumps at this point but keep whisking and watch as it thickens. Whisk for 3-5 minutes. Strain to remove any remaining lumps. Pour into 4 – 4 ounce ramekins and cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. These will firm up in an hour or two but can be stored for 3-4 days before serving if desired.

To serve: Combine all the whipping cream ingredients in a medium bowl and whip to firm peaks. Spoon over strawberry jello and serve.