No Crabs Were Harmed in the Making of this Veggie Dip

A few years ago my traitorous little brother got married.  I call him traitorous not because of his bride, who is lovely, but because out of the four children my parents raised, half of us were unmarried…there was strength in numbers.  Now there is only me, the old maid.  Even Grandma Jane, who is 93 and only has a passing interest in reality, can tell there is something wrong and her old self can swim up from the fog and ask “Are you ever going to get married?”.  I tell you, my brother is a traitorous bastard and I will find a way to get back at him, if it is the last thing I do…bwah, ha, ha.

As mentioned above, his wife is a lovely person and I was invited to join her at her “bachelorette” get together.  We started the evening with dips and desserts.  As we stood around, everyone kept asking each other who had brought the crab dip.  This worried me, as I had tried all of the dips and I tend to get nauseous and headachey when eating seafood.  I could not for the life of me figure out what people were talking about.  Finally someone dipped a cracker into my dip and said how much they were enjoying this crab dip.  They were talking about my veggie dip.  I am not sure if this means that I make an awesome crabless crab dip, or a misleading veggie dip.  Probably safest if I just run with the compliment before someone tries to take it back.

Veggie Dip

Ingredients:

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dill
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
¼ cup grated carrot
1-2 tablespoons milk (optional)
Assorted fresh vegetable dippers or crackers

Directions:

  1. In a small mixing bowl combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and dill and pressed garlic.
  2. Add vegetables and mix well, you may add milk to adjust consistency.
  3. Refrigerate for six hours, or overnight, to allow the flavors to blend.
  4. Enjoy with crackers or veggies.

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Salted Nuts and an Illicit Love Affair

I feel the need to confess something I am not entirely proud of.  For the last year or so I have been carrying on a not-so-secret affair with Captain M.  Mon Capitan is the boyfriend of my dear friend, Carolyn.  Don’t get me wrong, Carolyn is fully aware of our extracurricular activities, how can she not be?  She is the one passing our messages of affection to each other, and sometimes she even participates in our activities.  What can I say?  Captain M gives me things the Marb Man never could.  Not only does he profess his love 100% more often, he also can eat and enjoy any baked good that comes out of my kitchen.

Yes, it is all cupboard love.  What kind of girl do you think I am?  Aside from being allergic to the “L” word, the Marb Man is a Type 1 diabetic.  This prevents him from enjoying all of the yummy, sinfully rich, and decadent sweets that my evil mind comes up with.  Every once in a while I have a need to hear appreciation for my baking from a loved one.  As the Marb Man cannot provide this, and my mother is obviously biased in my favor, I turn to other loved ones to indulge me.  As I adore Carolyn like a sister, and through her, Captain M…they are my stand ins for this need.

For Christmas this year I made Captain M a turtle cheesecake.  I used the Ultimate Cheesecake recipe.  I left out the lemon peel and substituted salt for the sugar in the crust.  I topped it with chocolate ganache and once the ganache set, I used a squeeze bottle of caramel to ring the chocolate.  For those of you hissing about the caramel sauce, please note I had been baking for 8 hours..I was exhausted.  I had already dirtied (and washed) every dish I owned three times.  I did take the time to salt and toast my own pecans.  There is something amazing about roasted nuts that makes them indescribably addicting.  Even without a cheesecake underneath them, they were pretty tasty.  The response from Captain M and Carolyn?  More please!  I used a small portion to top the cheesecake, but if you were making them as a snack for a football game, it easily doubles or quadruples and can be used with different types of nuts.  Enjoy.

Roasted Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon cold salted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 300°
  • Spread pecans evenly over baking sheet.
  • Dot the nuts with the butter and then sprinkle evenly with salt.
  • Bake for 10 minutes then turn the nuts over.
  • Bake for another 10 minutes or until the nuts become golden and fragrant.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Roasted Salted Pecans, cheesecake optional

Roasted Salted Pecans, cheesecake optional

Father of the Pestle….Baba Ganoush

baba ganoush

I have to confess, when it comes to eating strange things I am a bit of a coward.  I blame my parents for this one.  After dinner they took us out to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  1984 Spoiler Alert!  They served roasted snakes and monkey brains in that movie..gross.  It took until my 30’s before I was willing to eat such things as artichokes, eggplant, diced tomatoes or calamari.  When it comes to seafood, I will try a bite of fish or cephalopod, but prefer not to.  All shellfish is on the “no” list, owing to the fact that my body reacts to it with nausea and headaches.  It is like my inner five-year-old still wants to order pancakes or a burger for every meal.  I have tried to triple-dog-dare myself into eating different things to no avail.  Proving that the powers in the universe have a sense of humor, the last time I decided I was going to cook whatever I opened the next cookbook to I got a recipe for brains.  All bets were off with that one.  Julia Child may be brave enough to give that a go before being trained how to cook, but I do not aspire to such things.  Marb Man had been all for it, I love watching him taking bites of things and then asking me what they are again.  Almost got him with the Rocky Mountain Oysters once, but couldn’t stop giggling and he knew something was up.

This brings up some interesting conundrums when I leave the country and need to eat.  I try not to be a bad American tourist and go to McD’s no matter how desperate I am.  When I was traveling in Egypt, I lucked out.  Most foods we were served came out family style, so I could try a bit without wasting anything or offending because I didn’t realize I was eating..whatever.  Additionally, there were a lot of veggie purees that I could dip away to my heart’s content with some flatbread.  So far I have not met a plant that totally freaked me out, so I was okay there.  One of the dips I had introduced me to eggplant for the first time in my life, baba ganoush .  I have enjoyed it ever since.  Not only is it fun to say, but it goes well with bread, raw veggies, crackers, or tortilla chips , it gives you something new to do with all of those eggplants you have grown, and (most importantly) gives you a chance to roast veggies on open flames.  Food, flame and fun, gotta love it!

"Do you expect me to talk?"  No Mr. Eggplant, I expect you to char.

“Do you expect me to talk?” No Mr. Eggplant, I expect you to char.

Baba Ganoush

Ingredients:

  • 3 Eggplant
  • 1/2 cup Tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice squeezed from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground salt (more to taste if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 dash of cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Any extras you would like to top it with (some like Kalamata olives, we used garlic infused olive oil and roasted red bell pepper rub)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375º.  Prick the eggplant several times and then put directly on the burner on the gas stove.  (If you don’t have a gas stove, the same thing can be accomplished under the broiler).  Turn every few minutes until the outside of each eggplant is uniformly charred, this will give the dip a nice, smokey flavor.  Put the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet and into the oven for 20-30 minutes.  In the end the eggplant should be soft enough to poke through with no resistance.  Once done baking, allow to cool.

Scrape out the pulp from the cooled eggplant and put into food processor.  With the exception of the extra toppings, add all of the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and serve with Pita bread, crackers or raw veggies.

Return From Summer Vacation

Hope everyone enjoyed their summer!  I, and my questionable ability to make sound decisions, am back.  I spent my summer avoiding my kitchen with its lack of air conditioning.  I also tried my hand or whatever at dating this summer.  I should have stuck to baking!  Now that the weather men are predicting cooler fall temps, I can start to fire up the oven again and get back to something I know how to do.

As I spent Labor Day without the man-child, I was able to make something green.  I save all these great recipes for days when he is not here so I can cook with things like mushrooms and onions and avocado. I decided to go Mexican tonight and give guacamole another shot. The first time I made it from a recipe that referred to itself as “The Most Awesome Guacamole Ever”. I thought it was so-so. It kind of reminded me of the last guy I went on a date with…he thought he was so awesome that when I gave the “it’s not you it’s me” speech, he was like “of course, how could it be me?”. This time I looked to my favorite food geek (Alton Brown) for guidelines on what to include. To go with the guac, I made my turkey chili dip. I do warn you it is addictive.

Some secrets to the ingredients…If you haven’t worked with avocados before, picking ripe ones involves two steps. Assuming you are going to use it same or next day, look for dark skin without dents. Next hold it in your hand and give it gentle pressure. It should give a little. Second, the easiest way to chop herbs is to put them in a small bowl and go to town on them with scissors. Third and final tip, to get the most juice out of your lemon or lime, microwave it for 10 seconds on high or roll between your hands.

Yummy Green Mush!

Yummy Green Mush!

Terra’s Fairly Decent Guacamole (No false advertising here)
Ingredients
2 ripe Haas avocados
1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Juice from 1/2 a lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions
Remove peel and pits from avocados and mash. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined.

Turkey Chili Dip
Ingredients
11/2 pounds ground turkey
1 16 ounce package of Velveeta Mexican, cubed
1 15 ounce can Hormel Turkey Chili, no beans
1 14 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
Directions
Brown ground turkey in a large skillet until thoroughly cooked. Drain and then add the remaining ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted. Serve with chips and enjoy!

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Blame the Pilgrims and Pass the Pizza Dip

I love celebrating major football moments in my life with appetizers and snacks in place of dinner.  I don’t know why, but I feel compelled to call a halt to normal meal time and whip up a bunch of bite sized, calorie laden, savory cries for help each and every Super Bowl.  When the Badgers make it to the Rose Bowl, the same urge rises.  I am choosing to blame the Pilgrims for one for the following reasons:

  1. Making up this whimsical tale is more fun than allowing Wiki to explain to me why our football loving forefathers chose the term bowl to describe a post season football game.
  2. If  you are going to blame forefathers, you might as well go way back.
  3. It is fun to rewrite history in such a fashion and see who buys it.

Going in the way back machine, when our football loving forefathers first came to this country they had a lot on their plates.  Possible hostile natives, losing almost half of their contemporaries the first winter and possible starvation probably took up a lot of their time the first year.  Based on the numbers, the lack of adult women after illness took its toll probably had them pretty worried as well.  Despite terrible hardships, the Pilgrims found time for some creative outlets.  Don’t let the lack of color in their wardrobes fool you, anyone who puts a buckle on their hats in such a fashion is definitely hiding a wild and wacky (although repressed of course) side to their personality.  Don’t believe me, check out the names of some of these folks: Wrestling Brewster, Degory Priest, Oceanus Hopkins and Desire Minter.  Clearly, either they lost some bets or they were a creative group.  More proof, the Pilgrims helped usher in what we now know as Thanksgiving in the October following their arrival.  They thought they were just having a harvest festival, not starting what would arguably become the best holiday.  By the time the football post season had arrived they must have been exhausted.  We have all been there, after a fight to survive for a whole year you finally think that you are going to catch a break and watch some great NFL action.  Everyone has brought bowls of chips, pretzels and chex mix and are passing them around when someone (I vote for Wresting Brewster) smacks themselves in the forehead and says to the group that they have forgotten to name the penultimate showdown between the best two teams.  Shoulders sink, a series of groans are issued forth.  And then someone sighs and says, “Super, I pray could thee pass the bowl?”.  Wait, what did you just say?…Nevermind, that’s it, we’ll call it the Super Bowl.  After all, we all love the game and bowls of snacks will practically be compulsory at every viewing.  It makes perfect sense!

“Photograph of a painting by Edward Percy Mora...

The first Super Bowl pool and I draw a 2 and an 8?

Of course it doesn’t actually make any sense, but coming up with the tale distracted me from a Badger loss in the Rose Bowl.  Aside from the obligatory bowls of munchies, we also ate pizza dip.  A recipe I based on one from the Pampered Chef and make for every dip day at the office and most bowl games as well.  It goes well with a nice baguette or crostini if you are feeling ambitious.  Enjoy!

Pizza Dip:

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 pinch of garlic powder
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 (8 ounce) can pizza sauce

Directions:

  1. Combine cream cheese and Italian seasoning and garlic powder; spread onto a 8-inch round ceramic baker (microwave safe)
  2. In a small bowl, combine mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle half of the mixture on top of the cream cheese.
  3. Pour pizza sauce evenly over the top.
  4. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  5. Microwave for 4-5 minutes on HIGH or until cheese starts to bubble
  6. Serve with bread rounds or crostini

 

Pizza Dip