If you've read this weblog for any length of time, you'll know that I do not claim to be a cook. I also maintain that it's not that I can't cook; I'm actually quite a good cook. I just don't enjoy doing it. So what's the point when most of the people I cook for would just as easily eat three day old Cheerios off the floor as something that took half a day, $40 in ingredients and a special trip to the grocery store to prepare? I rest my case.

For something to be a delightful recipe for me, it has to qualify on three levels:
  • one) it must be good. I may not like to cook, but most people have heard that I like to eat. So if I don't like it, there's really no point. It's all about me, ME, Meeeee!
  • two) it has to be quick. I don't really care about easy; I'm okay with putting forth some effort, but if it takes a long time to make - like if you have to chill it or let it sit overnight - I'm quite sure that my short attention span (made even shorter by my children who can't even let me go to the bathroom without interrupting) will let me forget that I'm even doing something that requires the kitchen and that dough I put in the fridge to chill for an hour last Thursday will probably no longer be viable.
  • three) it must be made with ingredients that I generally have in my house. I really hate having to go to six different stores for one thing that I will ultimately use to make exactly one dish and then it will go rancid in my pantry until the next time I need it, thereby requiring a repeat trip to the store. I know that there are still places in the world where people make a special trip to the market for each meal they prepare. But I do not live in those places anymore. So I tend to substitute: this calls for onions; I'm out of onions; what about a couple teaspoons of onion salt? That tendency of mine has ruined more than one meal.

I don't know where I originally heard about Spicy Saltines, but I've been seeing versions of the recipe around the interweb in a lot of places. I was intrigued, so about a month ago I decided to give it a try. Since then I've been adjusting and perfecting versions of it: swapping out spices or trying new flavorings. On my three requirements for good recipes, Spicy Saltines qualify on all levels. Which is why I shall share it with you now. I'll spare you my experimentation with different spices and just give you the basic idea, but know that you can swap out spices or add additional ones depending on what taste you're going for and/or more in my case, what you happen to have on hand.

I almost always have these four ingredients in the house:

Olive oil, crushed red pepper, garlic powder and a package of ranch dip

as well as a box of saltine crackers. Score.

So you take about three sleeves of crackers (maybe more, maybe less, it's all good) and empty them all into a gallon ziplock bag.

Then measure out your other ingredients into some kind of pourable container.

One cup olive oil:

About two tablespoons of crushed red pepper and a tablespoon of garlic powder:

along with the packet of ranch dressing mix:

Whisk, whisk, whisk. When it's pretty well mixed together, it will look ugly and nasty. I'm quite aware of this. Trust me, it gets better.

Then pour into the ziplock bag and drizzle evenly over the crackers:

Seal the bag and get a kid to mix the crackers around for a bit so they all get covered with spice and olive oil goo. Then put it down on the counter for ten minutes or so to soak up all that yummy olive oil on one side.

Flip the bag and let all the goo ooze down to the other side.

You can flip the bag as many times as you want. I tend to just leave it there and then turn it each time I walk through the kitchen. You can put it on its end, turn it over again, mush the crackers around some more. Basically, you want the crackers to soak up as much of the olive oil goo as evenly as they can, but you have to temper that with how badly you want to unhinge your jaw and just pour the entire bag in your mouth.

When I first came across this recipe, I uncharitably thought it was one of those trashy recipes that comes from the back side of the label and some marketing campaign designed to get you to eat more saltines and up Nabisco's profit margin. But then I remembered, those recipes - your green bean casseroles, your toll house cookies, etc. - tend to be really good. Now I find I can wait about thirty-six seconds before stealing the first cracker out of the bag when no one's looking.

Ordinarily, I would just leave them all in the ziplock bag, but that makes for a lame ending photograph, so here's your presentation photo.