Thanksgiving planning: Spicing up the basics

This jalapeno popper dip adds some heat to traditional holiday fare

The lights in our pumpkins are out and our candy bowls are empty so it’s time to start planning for Thanksgiving.

I’m blessed to have a large family that gathers here for the holiday and, since I don’t have to travel, I try to take on as much of the cooking load as possible to ease the burden on my mother-in-law, who hosts the event in her home every year.

I usually make the mashed potatoes, the turkey gravy (with cornstarch, not flour, of course), the sweet potato casserole, and rolls, but this year I thought it would be fun to add a new side dish or appetizer to the table. My recipes here this month will be practice runs and experiments leading up to the big day — a couple savory, a couple sweet.

We all have our recipes for the basics: the green bean casserole, the pumpkin pie, the cranberry sauce, etc., so I won’t be making those. Instead, I will attempt to incorporate some unexpected flavors and ingredients to liven up our very traditional and very predictable meal.

I also have several parties to attend this month that I couldn’t possibly arrive empty-handed to. Traveling with hot dishes is stressful, and often requires oven space to reheat upon arrival, so when I bring food to an event, I prefer to bring fuss-free items that can be prepared long in advance and served at room temperature or straight out of the refrigerator.

A savory dip for chips and vegetables is always popular at parties, and this jalapeno popper dip will brighten up the spread with subtle spice.

Jalapeno popper dip


8 ounces full-fat cream cheese

½ cup sour cream

The juice of 1 lime

3 tablespoons chopped chives (plus some for garnish)

6 slices of bacon

4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ fresh jalapenos (this sounds like a lot, but trust me, it wont be very spicy at all)


Cook your bacon strips until very crispy. You want the bacon to be cooked well enough to hold its shape when picked up. If the bacon is soft or floppy it will get gummy in the food processor. Allow the bacon to cool completely before finely chopping.

Wash and cut your jalapenos open lengthwise to remove the seeds and membranes. This will help to control the heat. If you would like a little more spice, feel free to leave some of the seeds in. Be sure to wear gloves when handling raw peppers or wash your hands with soap quickly after you’re finished to avoid skin irritations.

Grate or chop the Monterey Jack cheese.

In the bowl of your food processor combine the cream cheese, sour cream, lime juice, chopped chives (save a little for garnish), raw jalapenos, Monterey Jack, and half of the bacon.

Process until the mixture is a smooth paste. You will need to scrape the bowl periodically while you work. The finished dip is dense and thick.

Remove from the processor and fold in the rest of the bacon.

Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Garnish with chopped chives, a few squirts of lime juice, and maybe a few slices of fresh jalapeno.

This dip is great with vegetables, but the Frito corn chips were the tastiest partner, in my opinion.

Keep refrigerated for up to a week.

This jalapeno popper dip will brighten up any spread with subtle spice. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

This jalapeno popper dip will brighten up any spread with subtle spice. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)