It’s officially football season! And I am giddy over it. I am one of those gals who loves football just as much as most dudes. Not only for the sport itself, but for the social gatherings and delicious food spreads that surround the games. Our social circle consists of many diehard football fans who thoroughly enjoy making an event out of the games every single weekend. And I’m not complaining!
I am completely obsessed with this time of year. I’ve made that abundantly clear on this here bliggity blog (sorry for that), but whenever September rolls around and football starts, THAT’S when fall feels real to me. I mean, it’s still 80 degrees outside through October, and even though I ignore that small fact to enjoy my early-fall soups, we need all the help we can get in making fall feel “real.” Otherwise, it’s freezing and almost Christmas before we know it. I actually just heard from a friend that one of our local department stores ALREADY has Christmas stuff available…which makes me want to barf. WHY?! Why do we always try to rush through things to get to whatever is next?! I hate it. It isn’t even Halloween yet! We gotta slow down and savor the RIGHT NOW, people. Especially when the right now involves butternut squash and pumpkin at every turn.
Along with this being my favorite time of year, my food cravings turn from salads and grilling and watermelon to soups and pasta and pumpkin-spiced everything (could I be any more basic?). Football foods also top that list. I’ve waxed poetic about buffalo chicken on this blog five too many times (and yet, still have ANOTHER buffalo chicken recipe coming your way soon. OY), and it’s no secret that I love a good snack spread. Pizza, wings, buffalo chicken dip…these things just BELONG with football.
The only downside? Watching football and gorging oneself on decadent goodies and pumpkin beers is not great for one’s waste line. What? This isn’t news? Well, shucks.
In all seriousness, though, everything should be (and can be!) enjoyed in moderation. I am all for cutting a few caloric corners when it comes to snack spreads. Especially around football season. Dips like this one won’t give you away, I promise. It still tastes just as decadent and creamy as the full-fat version. I may have cut down on the fat by using low-fat cream cheese and 2% milk shredded cheddar, but I’m bumping the flavor back up with lots of tangy pickled jalapeños…and beer!
I have made a version of this cheese dip for years now and I’m always tweaking things along the way. Sometimes I make it with the full-fat ingredients and sometimes I switch up the cheeses (hellooooo fontina!). One thing that is always constant, though, is the beer I choose to use. I find that I actually PREFER a lighter beer in dips like this. Like, the cheap light stuff you drank in college. Yes. THAT beer. The beer that I wouldn’t be caught dead actually drinking now. The beer that people use to water their lawns. OK, hah, that last one was a bit of an exaggeration. But really! Light beer just tastes better to me in this dip. It just so happens to work with my “lightened up” theme today. I buy a six pack of said light beer and it basically sits in the back of our fridge until I need it for something like this. It is a good $6 well spent.
This dip is studded with spicy jalapeños. TWO kinds of jalapeños, to be exact. While you could definitely use all fresh or all pickled, I prefer using both. Pickled jalapeños add an awesome vinegary tang and…go figure…pickly taste to the dip, which I adore. And the fresh jalapeños bring the heat (and pretty color)! It’s the perfect combo.
You can serve this dip a million different ways. We usually go with crispy, super thin corn tortilla chips and some mixed veggies, but you could also spread this on crackers or pita chips or even use it as queso for tacos or burritos. It’s incredibly versatile. And delicious.
This time, I opted to top it off with some freshness in the way of homegrown cherry tomatoes (from my mom’s garden – I have the blackest of black thumbs), scallions, and a few thin slices of fresh jalapeño for some extra heat. The creaminess of the dip can definitely take the extra punch of spice. These toppings made the perfect transition from late summer into early fall.
And I’m all about that.
If you need me, I’ll be enjoying the RIGHT NOW with a big bowl of this dip and a bag of baby carrots (so I can justify that like-a-milkshake pumpkin beer to wash it all down)!
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced, grated, or pressed
1 fresh jalapeño, chopped (seeded if you like less heat)
¼ cup pickled jalapeños, chopped
¾ cup light beer
2 (8-oz) packages light cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded sharp cheese (I used 2% fat)
¼ cup ranch dressing (low fat or regular)
Additional chopped jalapeños (optional)
Sliced veggies, pretzels, crackers, pita chips, or tortilla chips, for dipping
Heat the oil in a small pot and add the shallot, garlic, and both kinds of jalapeños. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes and then slowly add all but ¼ cup of the beer.
Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for a few minutes until the beer is reduced by a third. Whisking constantly, add in the softened cream cheese. Whisk until smooth and creamy – it may take a minute or so for it to come together.
Whisk in the shredded cheddar and ranch dressing until everything is smooth, melted, and creamy. Add in the remaining ¼ cup beer and whisk again until incorporated. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Pour the hot dip into a heat-safe serving dish and garnish with scallions, tomatoes, and additional jalapeños. Serve warm with desired dippers.