Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Best veggie dip I've ever had

*Note - This post has been updated and copied to my new blog.

I'll be up front right away. This dip is not some virtuous recipe that calls for essential fatty acids, green superfoods or artisinal sea salt. It uses celery salt. It uses full fat store bought mayo. It uses GARLIC POWDER! I make no claim that it is healthy in quantities greater than a tablespoon or so (and really, who eats a tablespoon of dip?) And honestly, if you've come to expect that kind of uber-healthy recipe from me, have you really been reading my blog? LOL

What is this dip then? Well for starters it is part of my childhood. My mother's cousin gave her this recipe back in the early 80's, I believe. There may have been a Tupperware party involved. For all I know the recipe comes from the back of a package of something. I have no clue. But from that point on it's been my mother's go-to vegetable dip recipe. And it's mine, too.

Mom doesn't make it quite as robust as I do. I've doubled the original amounts of things like garlic and onion powder and Tabasco. But it's basically the same dip. Equal parts of sour cream and mayo (Hellman's only, reads the original recipe) flavoured with dill, onion, garlic, celery salt (originally "Beau Monde" seasoning, but I haven't seen that around in ages) and Tabasco. While you *could* use low fat or even fat free sour cream and/or mayo, I've done it and it really doesn't taste as good. If I were having this every week I'd consider getting used to it, but this is a sometimes recipe and we don't mind the extra fat and calories. Besides, we're eating it with raw vegetables for crying out loud!

Left to sit in the fridge overnight, the flavours marry into a smooth, creamy dip with a little punch and lots of flavour. I am some enjoying right now, as I type this blog post. This dip is so good that I'll eat a plate of raw cauliflower if it's around. Heck, I'll even consider thinking about possibly contemplating trying celery with it. It's that good. My preferred dippers are carrot sticks, though. I love their crunch with the smooth dip. But any sturdy veggie works well. Even zucchini spears, which are less wet than cucumber slices and hold the dip better.

Okay, without further ado (and before I forget to actually add it), here is the recipe. I hope you enjoy it. And if you do, please tell me. I love to hear about people enjoying the things I share.

1 Cup sour cream
1 Cup Hellman's Mayo
1 1/2 tsp parsley (dried is fine - or just omit it as I often do)
1 tsp dried dill (mine is usually heaped)
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
10-15 drops of Tabasco
finely sliced scallion, green tops only

Combine everything and allow to mellow in the fridge for at least a few hours. Overnight is better. Adjust seasonings to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Look what I grew from seed!

Lemon cucumbers! I bought the seeds from a lovely woman named Linda back in earliest Spring. She has a fabulous farm not too, too far from here where she grows heirloom veggies. And these are among them.

Now traditionally I've been the kind of gal who buys veggies already growing and just transplants them. But I decided to give these a try and I'm so proud of myself. These little darlings are the first of the crop, off of two plants which I am certain are plotting to take over the world. Or at least the yard. We're growing them vertically, on a trellis that hubby made. I can't imagine how much space they'd need if we let them grow on the ground.

So, who's up for lunch? I can't wait to try them. I've heard that they're less bitter than regular cucumbers. I'm going to fresh pickle some for supper in some rice vinegar and Thai basil. Yum!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Herbal bounty

I think I want to expand our herb garden next year. Well, it's not so much a garden as several planters. I have some parsley that is past it's prime (I really need to treat it like an annual), some chives, some Italian and Thai basil, oregano, thyme and lemon thyme and some "cotton candy" mint. All are very nice. Oh, and that poor sage plant I bought in the Spring that has yet to make it out of the little pot on the kitchen counter. How it's still alive is beyond me. LOL

I've been thinking of making some herb honey lately. I love sage honey as a base for glazes for chicken and pork. Thyme honey is great for sore throats. I'm wondering how Thai basil honey would be? Probably quite nice in a stir fry. But I don't have enough of it to make a jar. I should have planted more than one plant, but last year the Thai basil plant I had was massive! This year it's small and struggling and the Italian variety is flourishing.

I don't personally drink herbal tea (wish I did, but I've just never developed a taste for tea without cream). But my husband likes mint tea, which is why I bought the interesting sounding "cotton candy" mint. It's alright. Strong, but not like peppermint. Nice for tea, apparently. I'd like to grow some lemon balm as well, since it's supposed to make a very relaxing tea. I would love to see the kids start drinking herbal teas. If they develop a taste for them now, they can reap the benefits that I'm missing out on. So many tasty herbs are so good for us.

So, I'm open to options. What tea herbs do you suggest? What about culinary herbs (apart from rosemary and cilantro, which we do not like at all)? What can you not do without in your kitchen?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cold brewed iced coffee

Yeah, I'm a good year behind on this one. LOL I did find it last year when it swept the web, and I've enjoyed it since. But today I decided to share it here for my friends and readers. With so many places offering expensive cups of mostly ice and some bitter/sweet, high fat cold coffee, this treat is so much better. It costs less, it tastes better and it can be customized to your heart's content.

The basic recipe is one I came across here. It may have started with the New York times, as many viral recipes do.

1. The night before, start with 1/4 cup of coarse ground coffee, and add 1 cup of cold filtered water.
2. The next morning add 1 more cup of water.
3. Strain and pour into a chilled glass over ice (makes two glasses).

I add a generous amount of milk and a spoonful or two of raw sugar. You could even make a simple syrup with a little vanilla. If you like extra milk, then add less water. Freeze leftovers in ice cube trays for next time.

So that's where I started. But after doing that a few times I decided to ramp things up a bit. I doubled the base recipe, for starters, adding all of the water at once instead of only half of it. So here's what I do...

1. Add 1/2 cup coarse ground coffee to a French press (or glass measuring cup). Pour over 2 cups of cold water and let stand overnight (on the counter or in the fridge).
2. In the morning, press the plunger down slowly.
3. Fill a glass that has a little ice in it half full with the coffee concentrate. To those two parts of coffee, add up to one part water and one part cream, milk, soy milk, rice milk, goat milk or any other creamy beverage. I tend to use more cream/milk than water.
4. Sweeten with simple syrup to taste (I keep a jar in the fridge - one part water with one part sugar, heated until the sugar dissolves).

You can play with this, of course. Flavoured coffee works well. So does a splash of vanilla extract (or even a split vanilla bean added to the simple syrup when you make it). A swirl of chocolate syrup in place of the simple syrup turns out a nice mocha beverage. I'm sure my husband would add caramel. And for those not opposed, there are plenty of non-dairy flavoured creamer type thingies out there.

I like that the sugar and fat can be controlled in this. And there are no chemicals, unlike (I suspect) in a certain coffee shop iced brew. (I really don't know for sure, since if you want the actual ingredient list you have to contact them directly. I'm guessing it's more than "coffee, milk/cream, sugar.")

So last night I picked up and ground some organic beans at the Bulk Barn (what an age we live in when you can buy organic at a bulk dry goods store). Added a cup of them to my French press (yes, I doubled my already doubled recipe) and added the water. And this morning I made a lovely cup of iced coffee. The cold brewing process doesn't seem to leach bitterness out of the grounds, which makes for a smoother cup of coffee. You can heat it up after the fact by mixing it with hot milk/cream (or stirring it into some hot chocolate). I've made some hot brewed iced coffee this year already and the difference is amazing. Well worth the "effort" required to start the concentrate the night before. And I have enough for my husband and I for today and into the weekend (maybe). ;-)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Schooling confuses teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. ~ Wendy Priesnitz

I'm not terribly familiar with Ms. Preisnitz but if this quote is any indication, I like the way she thinks. I am also partial to the quote, "Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners." Not sure who said that. But I've come to find it so true.

I went to public school. "And I turned out fine." LOL Isn't that always the argument? "I was spanked and I turned out fine." "My mother smoked and I turned out fine." "We never wore sunscreen and we turned out fine." And so forth. As if not being a social deviant or homicidal maniac somehow justifies everything.

I wonder just how "fine" I turned out. I was a bright child. My report cards reflect that. Not the grades, but the comments. ".... is a smart girl. But she doesn't apply herself." Yeah, I was smart. And bored. Very bored. I never felt particularly motivated to do better than I had to in order to get by. I was happier to spend time with my friends. And as I got older it only got worse. By high school I was all about my peers and the music I listened to. My parents lost virtually all influence over me and knew nothing more than my report cards showed them. I was passing my classes. Not excelling. Not even working at my full potential. But passing was the goal, right?

So I spent my teen years separating from family and bonding with friends. Music had just as much influence in my life. Spending that many hours a day away from home afforded me a lot of time to cultivate the interests and relationships that shaped much of who I identified myself as in those days.

Do I blame the school system entirely? Of course not. How can I? It served it's function. Push as many through as possible with the goal of mediocrity. "Pass" was the point. Anything above that was gravy. Excellence was something for the individual to strive for, but was not really facilitated by the system. Teachers had a class full of students they had to ensure were at least average. They couldn't take much time to make sure those who were already past average were being challenged.

So what brought this on? Especially when the tone of this blog has a decidedly foodie flair? I was looking at my (home schooled) 5 year old son's math work today. He did a page of problems that were like this... 85 = ___+____ At first glance it looked like he didn't get it. Until I looked closer. His answer? 85 = -5 + 90. Correct!

He won't be 6 until nearer to the end of the year, and he's taught himself negative numbers and is using them in every day math. Why? Because it was part of a program that I taught him? No. Because it is what he should be learning at this age? Certainly not according to the public school system. He did it because he wanted to learn it. Much of what he knows he's learned himself, following his interests (which lie largely in math and science).

I could say that I can't imagine how bored he'd be in school, but I can imagine it. I was just as bored. But I didn't have anyone encouraging me to learn at my own pace and explore my interests. Instead I was taught to do what everyone else was doing. Sit quietly. Do only the work you're given. Finished it quickly? Sit quietly some more. Do not go ahead in your workbook. Don't listen to the lessons for the next grade (our school had split grade classes). Fit the mold. Excel on your own time.

I'm not anti-public school. I just don't want it for my children. I don't want them to turn out "fine." I want them to turn out amazingly excellent!

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'll update soon

I know I've been quiet this past week. It's gotten crazy hot. Too hot to cook. Too hot to go outside and barbecue even. Blech. It's raining today, though. The gardens are as thankful as I am.

So there hasn't been much to say. The gardens look good, but nothing is quite ready to harvest, save for a few lingering strawberries. The raspberries, green beans and some tomatoes are *almost* there.

My baby sister gets married tomorrow, so maybe I'll have some musings after that. At least it will be "cooler." 27C (humidex of 31C) rather than 33C (humidex of nearly 45C). Crazy that 31C can be thought of as "cooler."

Be back soon!