Homemade Cheez-Its

I’m pretty sure that everyone has a goldfish food. Y’know, that one tasty treat that you’ll eat until you explode? My goldfish food is buttery, salty popcorn topped with M&Ms. Toss the candies on top while the popcorn and the butter are still hot, so the M&Ms get a little melty and slippery from the butter and I totally forgot what I was talking about.

Oh. Yes. Goldfish food. For Handsome Greg, that tasty, eat-until-you-explode treat is Cheez-Its.

If there is a box of Cheez-Its within his reach, he will plow through the entire box, no matter how small his appetite at the moment. It’s a compulsion.

When I thought about what in the world to make him for his birthday dinner this year, I considered truffle salt and imported cheeses and lobster and organic balsamic vinegar and duck fat and caviar.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Grogg!

And then I thought about what HE would like, and took a stab at making homemade Cheez-Its. I started with a recipe for cheese straws at Smitten Kitchen (I really, really love Smitten Kitchen), made one small substitution in the recipe (below), and cut them in squares, rather than straws. They’re just as addictive as the original Cheez-Its, but flaky and tender. They start with sharp cheddar cheese and truly come to life with a pinch of red pepper flakes.

I’ve made them for nearly every gathering at my place since Handsome Greg’s birthday, and they’re always scarfed up in record time.

Edited to add: I tried this recipe with orange cheddar, and I cut the crackers in one-inch circles with a biscuit cutter, and they were drop dead adorable:

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Salsa Fresca

I was REALLY going to try to write about something other than my show this week, but well, screw it. The show has taken over my life; it makes sense that it would take over my blog.

Last week, I met with the marketing and publicity team of Those Were the Days to conceptualize our promo photo and finalize the copy. In honor of the occasion, I planned to host a Cuatro de Mayo Marketing and Publicity Meeting at my place. I got a call from my theatrical co-conspirator, Tall Paul, at about 9:30 Wednesday morning, when he let me know that he threw out his back, couldn’t drive to my place, and would I mind terribly hosting the meeting/fiesta at his place?

Um, am I a caterer? Apparently I am! I made chicken tacos, Mexican black beans, chipotle risotto, and this bright, beautiful salsa. Oh, and cinnamon ice cream for dessert. Then I packed it all up in plastic containers and schlepped it over to Paul’s apartment for the meeting.

The salsa is ridiculously simple to prepare, with a huge flavor payoff. Keep or remove the ribs and seeds of the jalapeno to adjust the heat level to your preference.

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Steak Salad with Chimichurri Dressing

I took this photo in a conference room at work.

As I may have mentioned before, I’m writing a musical revue for the MN Fringe Festival this summer. Outside of my joe job (and the kitchen), I spend pretty much every waking moment working on the show. I’m so close to being done writing the script that I can almost taste it. And I’m POSITIVE that being done writing the script tastes delicious.

I’ve got two short monologues and a medley left to write, and I have run out of ideas. I’ve used them all up. I got nuthin’. And it’s totally freaking me out.

And now it seems my theater hobby anxiety is spilling into my cooking hobby anxiety. I’ve got this perfectly beautiful, delicious salad to share with you, and what happens? Writer’s block. I don’t have any stories or quips or insights, just a list of ingredients and some overused adjectives: crunchy romaine, sweet tomatoes, and creamy mozzarella, tossed in bright, fresh chimichurri dressing, and topped with tender, juicy steak.

I’m sorry, folks. I let you down.

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