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Cheesy Crackers – The Simple Joy of Homemade Crackers

Making homemade cheese crackers has never been very high on
my must-do baking list, but with entertaining season rapidly approaching, I
decided to give it a try to see just how vastly superior they are to their
store-bought cousins.

I’m happy to report that they better anything I’ve ever
had out of a factory-sealed package. They have a much better texture with more crunch, and way
more real, cheesy flavor. The only thing they have less of is ingredients; like
by 45 to 5.

By the way, these cheesy crackers are based on a recipe I found on
my friend, Joy the Baker’s blog. If you’re not familiar with her fine work, I
encourage you to go check her out. She’s one of my favorites!

As far as the cheese goes, I went with three parts sharp
cheddar to one part Parmigiano-Reggiano. I’m giving the cheese measurements
below in weight, as the proportions to the rest of the ingredients are
critical, and as you’ll see in the clip, measuring by cup is highly inaccurate.
Since I used a fine grater on the very dry, hard cheese, it looks like well
over a half-cup of cheese, but in fact was only one ounce.

This is why when recipes call for a cup of Parmesan cheese,
some people will be adding 2-oz of cheese, and others 4-oz, simply depending on
how they grated the cheese and packed the cup. But, when portioning cheese by
weight, one ounce is always one ounce. 

Okay, I feel better. I hope you give
these delicious homemade cheese crackers a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 36 crackers:
(Note: This is a half recipe,
you should double to make enough for a party)
Based on this recipe from Joy the Baker
2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup lightly
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about 1/3
cup lightly packed)
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch of cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (2.25 oz by weight)
1 tablespoon cold water

Shrimp & Jalapeno Nachos for Cinco de Mayo or Cinco de Anytime

These simple and addictive shrimp and jalapeno nachos are
not only a nice alternative to more common versions, but a great reminder of
how this iconic snack was actually intended to be served. Contrary to current
fashion, nachos didn’t start out as a giant pile of chips drenched in ladles of
florescent gold cheese sauce.

The earliest versions were made by simply broiling a single
layer of cheese-topped chips, which were then garnished with jalapeno peppers –
simple and elegant, with every chip genetically identical to the next. Over
time we’ve added hundreds of toppings, as well as replaced the broiled (real)
cheese with something that you can also use to grease an axel.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the aforementioned version just
as much as the next guy wearing pajama jeans, but once in a while it’s good to revisit
a simpler time in American snacking. If you’re planning to party, I wish you a
fun and safe Cinco de Mayo, and hope you give these very tasty chips a try.

Ingredients for 4 Portions:
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (I used 50-60 per pounds size, which are
ideal for this)
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp ground chipotle pepper
salt and pepper to taste
50-60 large tortilla chips, or as needed
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced very thin
about 3 1/2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
avocado creama (1 avocado, 1 cup sour cream, and juice of 1
lemon or 2 limes; liquefied in a blender)
sliced cherry tomatoes and freshly chopped cilantro to garnish

Twice Baked Potatoes – They Take Longer, But At Least They’re More Complicated

I don’t do a lot of things in the kitchen purely for
esthetic reasons, but these twice baked potatoes are one of my more beautiful
exceptions to that rule. You can get almost the exact same flavors by just
adding stuff to a regular baked potato, but what you won’t get in that
scenario is the impressive, over-stuffed height, and gorgeous, golden-browned
crust seen here.

Is it worth it? Only you can answer that. For me, once in a
while, for those extra fancy dinners, the answer is a resounding yes. Taste is,
and always will be, the most important aspect of cooking, but when entertaining
guests on special occasions, don’t forget that you’re putting on a
show with the food. And when it comes to starchy side dishes, this is a great
way to express that flair for the dramatic.

Like I said in the video, this is a demonstration of
technique, and not necessarily a recipe I want you to follow verbatim. I will
list what I used below, since I’m required to by food blogger common law, but if there was ever a
recipe that you’d want to experiment with, this is the one.

By the way, since theres a certain amount of prep involved
here, you can make these ahead of time, up to the point of the second baking,
and then just finish when it gets closer to service. I hope you give this show
stopping side dish a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Twice Baked Potatoes:
4 large russet potatoes
3 tbsp butter
1 or 2 tbsp minced green onion
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cream or milk
1 egg yolk
Bake at 400 degrees F. for an hour to cook potatoes, and
then 20-30 to brown after stuffing.