Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dear Maraea...

It's been one of those days.

I can't wait to come home and see you, so I can laugh and smile and giggle and snuggle with the best part of my life.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Family Dinner 101

Fall has definitely arrived in Philadelphia, and with the cooler air comes a renewed desire to use my oven.  In the summer it tends to heat up the main floor of my tiny house so I try to steer clear of it if I can and stick to grilling and stovetop cooking.  But there are few things I love more than the warmth of my oven and the warm, comforting smells coming from it on a chilly day.

I love the fall.  It's my favorite time of year.  I love the return of scarves and sweaters and oversized hoodies and sweat pants and chunky boots and flare jeans.  I love coming home from work and walking up my walkway as dusk is setting, being able to see the living room lamp illuminating my screen door from the front and knowing I'm heading towards a warm, cozy house.  No doubt to be greeted by my daughter's excitement at my return: "Mommy mommy!  You back!  I miss you all day!"  The icing on that comfy cake right there is the smell of something fantastic coming out of my kitchen.

This meal is one of those meals that really scents up your house.  It's a smell I grew up with.  One of my mom's "famous" dishes is roast beef, mashed potatoes, and "bwack gwavy".  She usually made it on Sunday nights when we were all home for dinner.  It's one of those scents that you carry with you from childhood to adulthood -- whenever I smell it cooking, no matter how old I was or am, my stomach growls, my mouth waters, and I start wondering how long it is till dinner is ready.  It's usually requested for my birthday dinner and sometimes my sister's birthday dinner.  And though it's a simple recipe, it took me a while to master it the way my mom has.  If you watch my mom make it, it's effortless: she doesn't measure anything, she just knows.  And to be honest, I'm still trying to master mashed potatoes.  I am very hit or miss with them.  So most of the time I just say screw it and make smashed potatoes.  I have never once made potatoes as silky smooth as my mom has.  But I will keep on trying.

So I'm figuring you know what roast beef and mashed potatoes are, but you may be wondering what "bwack gwavy" is.  I'm not quite sure where this recipe came from; it might be my mom's original.  I just know she always makes it with this meal, and it's the only time she makes it.  And yes, we usually pronounce it like that because that's how my baby sister would say it.  It just stuck.  Personally, I drench my roast beef and potatoes in bearnaise sauce (have you ever had this?  Pick up a packet in your sauce aisle; Knorr makes the best.  You may never go back to gravy on anything again.  I literally put this on everything -- I even dip french fries in it.  Hey, a girl's gotta keep her curves somehow) so I have never had a taste for "bwack gwavy", but my husband loves it.  In fact, he mastered the gravy recipe and now I just let him make it when we are having this for dinner.

Next time you feel like warming up your house on a chilly day with your oven and some mouth-watering smells, consider this family dinner recipe. 

Beth's Roast Beef
  • 1 eye round roast
  • 1 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  • Water
Season beef with salt and pepper on all sides. 

Prepare a roasting pan by pouring the packing of onion soup mix into the bottom, and covering with water.  Stir if necessary.

Set the roast on a roasting rack above the water & soup mix.

Roast at 350 for about an hour or an hour and a half, until desired doneness.  Check with a meat thermometer if you'd like.  Medium should read about 145 and medium-well should read about 155.

Not-Really-Beth's Mashed Potatoes
  • 4-6 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Combine milk or buttermilk and butter in a small skillet or saucepan.  Set over very low heat to melt the butter and warm the milk.  Whisk to combine when the butter has melted.  Keep warm.  (Note: This step is not my mom's step.  I came up with this on my own.  Sorry Beff!  My mom stands at the counter over a big pot of potatoes and throws cold butter and cold milk into them and mixes everything with a hand mixer and it always comes out perfectly.  That method did not work for me, so I employed this.  What can I say, my mom is magical.)

Boil potato cubes 15-20 minutes, or until tender.  They should just start to break apart when pierced with a fork, or if pierced with a knife, they should slide right off the blade.  Drain and return to saucepan.

Pour half of the melted butter mixture into the saucepan of potatoes.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  With an electric hand mixer, beat until the melted butter mixture is combined.  If more is needed, pour in more.  Whip to desired consistency.  Taste for flavorings, and add more salt, pepper, or butter as desired.

Beth's Bwack Gwavy
  • Drippings and onion soup mix from the roasting pan
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch, whisked with enough warm water to dissolve it
  • 1 tablespoon Kitchen Bouquet
Pour pan drippings and leftover soup mix into a saucepan over medium heat.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and warm water.  Add to the saucepan.  Whisk gravy to combine with cornstarch mixture until it thickens.  Add more dissolved cornstarch and water as desired.  Whisk in Kitchen Bouquet and let simmer till you're ready to serve.

We usually round out this meal with corn and crescent rolls.  Of course, I always have my pot of bearnaise sauce next to my plate (no, I do not share).  And then we can usually talk my dad into taking us all out to Dairy Queen for some dessert afterwards.

Anyway.  When you're all done, you should have some deliciousness that looks like this:

Om nom nom, right?  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Life really is too short....

I just got back from vacation.  I'd been waiting on that week.  I'd been just trying to survive work and school and life in general to get to my one week vacation in Virginia Beach, and by some miracle, I made it.  And did I ever need it.

For a full week I was able to spend more than enough time with my daughter and my husband, and refocus my mind and my heart and my soul.  I centered myself.  I cast away the things that were dragging me down and came back to work this week caring so much less about the bullshit that I cared about before I left.  On some level, I felt refreshed.  Maybe just refreshed enough to get through my last few semesters of school and the next 6 or so months of work.... because being on vacation revealed something else entirely to me.

Life is entirely too short to spend any amount of my precious time doing something I do not like doing.  I spent a full week putting a smile on my daughter's face, making her the happiest kid in the world, and there are few things more rewarding or fulfilling than that.

No amount of Word documents I crank out at work will fulfill me like last week did.  I still came back to a job in which I am grossly underpaid and sadly under-appreciated.  You know, I could maybe take one or the other of those two things, but both??  I could go get a job and be sadly under-appreciated somewhere else for many thousands of dollars a year more.  Well why shouldn't I?  But you know, it's not always that easy, is it.

So here I am, back at my old desk.  Staring at an 8x12 of my daughter's smiling face, just trying to get through this day.  I will do the same thing tomorrow.  And the next day, and the next day, and the next day...  If I could allow myself to dream for a moment, what would I do?  Well, I'd quit my job, keep my daughter home, turn her into a beautiful young woman, cook amazing food, delve into photography, and take care of my house, home, and family.  I'd escape all the corporate bullshit, all the high school drama bullshit, all the fucking ridiculous bullshit I put up with on a daily basis.

But in the meantime, reflecting on my vacation is a pretty nice escape.  Here are some of my favorite photos from last week:

Okay, so that turned out to be a lot of pictures.  Well, whatever.  I got nostalgic!

I dropped off 3 rolls of Velvia film to be developed and should get them back next weekend.  I am eager to see how they turned out.  I kept my prime lens on my 35mm for the whole trip so I could practice with it.  My fingers are crossed.

On a side note:  I've been listening to Florence + The Machine a lot.  I highly recommend Shake It Out (you have probably already heard it) and No Light, No Light (freaking amazing).  Go listen and enjoy.

Stay tuned.... I'm making some recipes next week since I'm off of school for another month, and I'll also post my film shots.  Good things to get me through these next few months, yay!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Not Your Mama's Mac & Cheese

Have you ever seen the movie Ratatouille?  It's a cute kid's movie about a little rat (or, as Maraea calls it, a "wittle mousie!") that loves to cook and through some fantastical chain of events, finds himself the chef of his own restaurant....that serves people.  Hey, it's a kid's movie.  But I love it.  There's a line in the movie recited by the creepy food critic, Ego, that goes something like this:

"I don't like food, I love it.  If I don't love it, I don't swallow."

I love this line, because it's similar to my own food theology, which is: If it doesn't look good and smell good, it's not going in my mouth.  See, similarly double-meaningful, similarly dirty / yet not really -- right up my alley.  And as I sit here watching Ratatouille with my daughter for the 67,861,841,654,318,676th time, I was inspired to write a post about one of my most favorite, most delectable dishes: Macaroni and Cheese.

I know, I know, I know: here we are in the throes of summer and my offering is another heavy pasta dish.  But you know what?  Macaroni and cheese is a suppertime staple for many families in many regions -- in fact, the South is one of the hottest regions in our fine country and don't they have it at just about every big family meal?  Okay, maybe that's a generalization, and quite unfounded for that matter since I live in Yankee Land.  But still.  Who doesn't like a creamy, delicious mac n' cheese?  I invite you to make this dish part of your family's next get-together.

And pick up the movie Ratatouille, whether you have kids or not.  If you love to cook, like I do, you will still find it to be a great movie.

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 2 cups dry macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk, room temperature or warmed in the microwave
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 2 oz Velveeta, cubed
  • 1/2 - 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat your oven to 400 F and cook your macaroni according to package directions, and drain.

In a large saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour to make a roux.

Like my little egg-shaped domes of flour?  I think they are cute.

So cook the roux until it's smooth and bubbly over medium heat, about 1 minute.  Don't let it brown too much.  Add the warmed milk and whisk until combined and it starts to thicken.  It shouldn't take too long if your milk is warm; if it's cold, this part will seem like it's taking a while.  Season liberally with salt and pepper; taste to make sure it's to your liking.

Once your white sauce is nicely thickened, add the cream cheese and break it up with the whisk.  Turn your heat down to low at this point; now you're just melting the cheeses into the sauce.  Once the cream cheese has been incorporated, add the Velveeta.

See how thick that sauce is?  That Velveeta is just sitting on top of it.  Mmm mmm mmm.  That's heaven right there, folks.

So once the Velveeta melts, add the cheddar and monterey jack cheeses.  Whisk it all together till it's all melted and combined.

Pour your drained macaroni into the sauce.  Stir it all together.  You could actually serve it at this point as a stovetop macaroni dish.  Right now you're staring at it and your mouth is watering and you want to taste it..... go ahead.  Do it.  You won't be sorry.  Then you might change your mind about baking it altogether and turn off your oven.  Or, if you've got the willpower, stick it out and bake this bad boy.

Pour the mac and cheese into a greased casserole dish.  Combine the melted butter and bread crumbs -- use just enough bread crumbs to make a loose, wet-sand type of mixture.  Spread it over top of the macaroni.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese starts bubbling and the bread crumbs are nicely browned.

Serve as a side dish to pork chops or fried chicken.  Or serve as a main dish with garlic bread or salad as a side.

Yum yum yum!!!  Enjoy.  :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tortellini Even a Toddler Would Love

As a very good friend of mine just (literally, just, as in, minutes ago) posted on Facebook, I (we!) have been in a cooking rut lately.  Pinterest is all the rage these days, and while combing through pages and pages of luscious-looking food pictures can be both a time suck and inspiring, it takes some effort to actually start putting some recipes together for a week's worth of dinner.  You gotta go to each site, get the recipe, print it out, figure out what new ingredients you might need, go shopping.... ah.  I've been doing it for the past couple weeks, and so far I've liked everything I've tried off Pinterest, but it's getting kind of expensive.

So sometimes you end up going back and resurrecting your old favorites.  The ol' reliables, the stand-bys.  That's what this recipe is for me, and since I shared it once with my aforementioned friend, who loved it, I figured it's time to share it with you.  My husband is not a fan of heavy pasta dishes (bummer -- Pinterest is saturated with them), so when he's not home, this is my go-to treat-myself pasta dish.  :)

If you, like me, have made anything off Pinterest lately, chances are you probably have these ingredients on hand.  And if not, well, it's not that many ingredients.  And I promise you it's worth the simple effort involved.

This is the first grown-up pasta dish I made for my daughter and she loved it, and still loves it.  Make no mistake -- this is a heavy dish -- and I know it's summer and we all like to eat light, but damn this is a good pasta dish.  I hope you enjoy it as much as me and my creamy-stuff-loving daughter do.  :)

Creamy Roasted Garlic Tortellini

  • 2 heads garlic, roasted*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 package cheese tortellini -- I use a 19oz package frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • Minced parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*To roast garlic:  Cut off top to expose cloves.  Place heads in a sheet of aluminum foil with the heads up.  Drizzle olive oil on top.  Seal aluminum foil into a packet and roast for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Let cool before removing cloves to make sauce. 

When the garlic is done, it should look like this:

Cook's note:  Spread this roasted garlic on a piece of French bread, and thank me later.

So now that your garlic has roasted itself to sweet deliciousness, pop those cloves out and drop them into a blender.  I find that the easiest way to do this is with a butter knife, like this:

A lot of people actually like to hold it in their palms like that and squeeze them out by squeezing their hand into a fist, but I find that this way gets the most garlic out.

Once you've popped all the cloves out into the blender, pour in the olive oil and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and give it a whirl until the garlic is completely pulverized.  Then add the rest of the heavy cream, the sour cream, Parmesan, salt and pepper.  Whirl it again to combine; the sauce will be thick at this point.

Cook the tortellini according to package directions and drain.  Melt the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all the tortellini.

Then pour in that thick, rich, delicious sauce.....

And stir it up and heat it through.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, and if the sauce seems too thin for you, add some more Parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper the pasta to taste.  Before serving, stir in the minced parsley.

Pour it onto a plate... you will probably want a big serving.... and enjoy.

If you are feeding this to a toddler, you probably want to cut the tortellini noodles in half.  But, you're probably a good mom and already know this.


Thursday, July 19, 2012


Well I've been on hiatus for quite a few months now.  Things have just been insane.  Work has been insane.  School has been insane.  And free time -- what's that?  It's no wonder my 52 project came to a screeching halt.  I've been nonstop for months now.

But things are finally starting to settle.  As they are settling, I am having more time to process things I started bottling up about over the past couple months.  My mind is dredging things up that I thought were long-buried, and I'm attempting to re-process them.  Like, hey, remember that time your so-called BFF talked shit about your daughter behind your back?  Oh, yeah.  That pissed me off pretty good.  Hm, yep, still pretty upset about that.  And, hey, remember when you found out that your other so-called friend twisted your words into something that doesn't even resemble what you actually said, and spit them back out to someone else so that person could spend months angry with you over it?  Oh yeah!  How could I forget.  You know what, yep, I'm still pretty ticked about that too.  And, what about the time when your so-called BFF blatantly betrayed your trust and broke your confidence, or the time when your so-called friends twisted interactions with you into something they very clearly were not?  Yeah, turns out I still remember that crap too.

It's exhausting.  Dealing with this crap.  Positively exhausting.  The toughest part is that I don't have a poker face.  I can't hide how I'm feeling.  If you sense that I'm upset with you... well, I am.  You'll know it.  I don't set out to intentionally make anyone feel uncomfortable, it's just that I can't stomach being fake and acting like nothing happened when you've just stabbed me in the back and are twisting the knife by smiling in my face like you didn't do anything wrong.  So yeah.  It's exhausting to hold back the bitch, to bite my tongue to keep from telling someone off, to hold my fist by my side so it doesn't connect with someone's jaw.  But alas, keeping the peace is likely necessary to keeping a lot of the other things in my life as well.  My tongue has permanent teeth marks in it.

But there's a lesson to be learned from this weight.  And that is, above all, the love of your family is the most important thing in your life, and nothing should ever tarnish that.  None of those problems should ever tarnish me so much that it takes away from my day-to-day love and joy that is my daughter.  None of these things should ever weigh so heavily on me that I can't enjoy my daughter and my family and the other people that really do have my back and love me.

I will never go home in a bad mood and let anyone else's actions take away from the time I have with my daughter.

So, if I can muster the strength to put those issues aside every day to go home happy and enjoy my life with her, I really just need to find it in me to put those issues aside completely.  Chalk it up to lessons learned and cut those people out of my life.  And if I can't....and I might not be able to, completely....at least know they can't be trusted.  Avoid them.  Protect myself.  Live my life and love my daughter.

She is really the greatest thing that's ever happened to me, and I won't let anyone hurt me in such a way that she is affected by it.  She is my saving grace, the light at the end of every tunnel, the hugs and smiles waiting to ease my pain.

Life would really, really suck without my daughter.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

52 Project Fail

So my 52 Weeks of Maraea Project is quickly coming to a failing halt.  I'm not a bad mother -- I'm a busy mother.  School, work, and motherhood eat up all of my time.  Trust me, I wish I had nothing better to do than lay around my house with my daughter and snap pictures of her all day long.  My life just doesn't allow for it right now.  Sadly.  So, I think at the end of this year, I'm just going to take all of my favorite pictures of her and put them in a book in chronological order.  (Previously the idea had been to take my one favorite photo per week and put it into a book but really.  Who can pick just ONE favorite photo of the most beautiful little girl in the world?)  I'm just going to make a conscious effort to keep using my cameras, as I have been, and take lots of pictures of her.

Another reason this project would have gotten held up is the processing time of a professional film developer.  My black and white film has to get sent off to an out-of-state lab to be developed, and takes about 2 weeks.  Color film is developed in-house at my developer but they only run certain processing types per day, and could take up to a week.  I've been really happy with the results though, even though it's time-consuming and costly ($25 for my most recent roll of black and white to be developed + 4x6 in prints + CD).

I just got my first roll of black and white back and I am STUNNED at the results.  I've never seen developed black and white film turn out this crisp and -- well -- black and white.  They are beautiful.  And so is my daughter.  :)

The color roll turned out pretty well too.  If I just had a still subject, and prettier scenery, these would have been fantastic.

Oh, spring.  Please hurry with your green return.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Week 5 / 52 of Maraea

I'm a few weeks behind, but that's because I've been waiting on some film to get developed for my 52 project.  And also because I've been busy with work, and school, and being a mom.... you know, the usual.  School wraps up this week.  I'm going to take my final tonight and then have a full two weeks off before I go back.  Next week, I took off of work too, for my birthday.  So next week I will literally (hopefully) have *nothing* to do but play with my camera.... and watch TV.  And eat.

I don't know about you guys, but I've been addicted to Pinterest.  There is a Photography section that you can go through, and it does two things to me simultaneously.  First, it inspires me, and makes me want to grab my camera and run outside and shoot, or look for models to practice on.  Then, it makes me really sad.  Because I don't have the time to do any of that.  I wish I did.  I wish I could quit my job and be a stay-at-home mom and make a small paycheck taking photographs for one reason or another.  When I'm paging through all the beautiful black & white photographs, I just feel an aching in my arms, a longing and a need that I have to fulfill.  I am so moved by black and white photography, and I really want to perfect mine.

All in due time, I know.  All in due time.

So anyway, enough lamenting and on to my beautiful daughter.  Did you guys know she's gorgeous?  Seriously.  If you didn't, here's proof:

Ok so, she's making a funny face.  And her face is out of focus.  But do you know what she's doing here?  She's reaching for my camera, demanding "MY DO!", because she wants to take pictures.  Because she wants to be just like me.  :)  And this makes mommy happy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

'Tis a Day for Dips!

Superbowl Sunday is just a couple days away, and with that in mind, I realized I haven't posted any recipes here in a bit.  So I thought I'd share with you the two recipes I'll be making and bringing to my mom's house this weekend.

It is said that Superbowl Sunday is a day for dips.  Dips, spreads, and of course, platters of hoagies and sandwiches and chicken wings and other decadent fatty favorites.  In our house, we usually do our normal family get-together spread of cheese, crackers, pepperoni, and Herlocher's; chips and dips; and my mom's famous wings.  My mom is from Buffalo, so her wings are legit.  But to round out the spread, I thought I'd bring a couple of other family favorites -- Bread Dip and Taco Dip.  I already have the ingredients at home, I was going to make them for an in-home date night with my husband last weekend but I ended up getting sick.  (I had this awesome idea -- Dips n' Darts night.  I was so excited about it.  Stupid flu ruined all my plans.  Oh well, another night!)

Without further ado, here are some super simple recipes to add to your Superbowl spread this weekend....

Bread Dip

This gluttonous favorite made its entry into my family when my father was involved in politics when I was a kid, and my mom had all kinds of gatherings and parties at our house while we were upstairs sleeping.  It was always a huge hit, and once I was old enough to appreciate it, well, there's hardly an occasion I can find not to make it.  I usually make it every New Year's Eve and eat almost the whole thing by myself.  Whenever I take a day off work to just schlep around and not do anything, I make this for myself for lunch.  I craved it when I was pregnant and made it weekly for a while.  So, it's sure to be a hit with you too.

Here's what you need:

  • 1 round loaf sourdough, rye, or pumpernickel bread
  • 1 brick cream cheese, softened (this is not a time for fat-free stuff)
  • 1/2 cup hot salsa (make sure it's HOT!)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Additional dippers like extra bread, Wheat Thins, or tortilla chips

Cut the top off the bread and hollow out the inside to make a bread bowl.  Tear the insides into large bite-size pieces and lay on a cookie sheet.  If you've got an additional loaf of bread for dipping, cut it into similar-sized bite-size pieces.  Toast in the oven for 10 minutes on 350.

While the bread is toasting, mix together the cream cheese, salsa, and sour cream with beaters.  When it's well-mixed, add the cheddar cheese and mix well.  Let your gorgeous daughter help too, if you want.  (BTW -- she loves bread dip.  Loves it cold AND hot.  Mama so proud!)

Then pour the dip mix into the bread bowl, put the lid back on, and double-wrap in aluminum foil.  By this time your bread pieces should be finished toasting.  Toss them into a bowl and crank the oven to 450.  Then put the bread dip in and bake for 90 minutes.

Yes, 90 minutes.  I know, I know.  I'm sorry.  It looks so good and you want to eat it RIGHTNOW right?  I know.  Ninety minutes is a really long time but trust me -- it is worth it.

When it's done (by now you will be smelling it in the air and your stomach will be growling and you'll probably be watching the timer -- What?!  Only 35 seconds have passed?!  I could have sworn it's been at LEAST 7 minutes since the last time I looked!), unwrap it and take the lid off and stir it up a bit.  Serve it on a platter with the dippers around it, and enjoy.

Oh, and try not to burn your tongue.  It'll be tough.

Taco Dip

Now for a nice, refreshing cold dip.  This is my mom's taco dip, but I've modified it slightly.  Her original recipe didn't have any sour cream in it, so you could leave that out if you'd like.  But I find that adding the sour cream gives it a nice body and consistency.  But I've found you need to use fresh sour cream -- a new container -- and a thicker sour cream.  I always use Daisy.  It's not organic, but it is all-natural, and hell, it's just the best sour cream out there.  It's thick, and creamy, and delicious.  It never gets too runny or watery.  They don't sell it at Whole Foods so I have to make a special trip to my (gasp!) Acme to stock up.  Yes, it's just that good.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8oz taco sauce, any heat level
  • 16oz sour cream (use Daisy!!)
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced green peppers
  • Finely shredded cheddar cheese

Mix together the cream cheese, taco sauce, and sour cream.  You may not use the entire container of sour cream -- just mix in however much you want, so you get the dip consistency you want.  I normally use most, if not all, of the 16oz container.  Spread into the bottom of a large baking dish, 13x9 size should be fine.  Refrigerate for a couple hours so it can set.

Chop all your veggies, and -- this is important -- if you've washed them (and I sure hope you have), make sure you dry them well, especially the lettuce.  And seed your tomatoes!  Otherwise all that liquid will drip down to your dip base and make it a watery mess.  It will still taste delicious, but please, people.  Let's not sacrifice the creamy consistency.

Layer your veggies on in the following order -- lettuce, green peppers, and tomatoes.

Then top with your finely shredded cheddar cheese, and stick back in the refrigerator to set for a little bit or just to keep it cold till you're ready to serve it.  Serve with strong tortilla chips -- this is not a dip for flimsy, easily-breakable, wimpy tortilla chips.

You know, I've always wanted to make little individual dip cups with Tostitos Scoops.  Scoop a little bit of dip into each and top with the toppings and lay them all out on a platter.  I'm not sure how it would turn out, but if anyone tries that, get back to me and let me know how it works.  And take pictures!