Foodie’s Dips and Spreads

Walking through the cracker aisle for saltines, I decided to pick up a couple boxes of snack crackers. I have my favorites and I usually know exactly what I’m going to use for a spread or dip. I mean, you can’t eat a cracker without a spread or something to dip it in. Can you?

I never met a cheese I didn’t like. So today, Foodie presents three dips and spreads with cheese. Their flavors range from zesty to rather mild.

Creamy Horseradish Dip

  • Half pound Velveeta cheese spread, cubed
  • One third cup horseradish sauce or 2 T. horseradish
  • 1 fourth c. milk
  • Microwave ingredients in a one-quart microwave safe bowl on high at 2-minute intervals, stirring each time, until cheese is entirely melted or until you can stir them into a creamy mixture.
  • Makes about 1 and 1/3 cups. Serve with vegetables, chicken nuggets, or chicken fingers. Sometimes I add a dash of hot sauce for a little more kick.

Bacon Cheese Spread

  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 T. finely chopped onion
  • One third c. sour cream
  • 3 slices crisp-cooked bacon, crumbled
  • Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly blended.
  • Makes about 1 one half cups

Serving suggestion

Hot Artichoke and Spinach dip

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • One fourth cup mayonnaise
  • One fourth cup grated parmesan cheese
  • One fourth cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • One fourth t. garlic powder
  • Half t. basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 14 oz. can artichokes, drained and chopped
  • Half cup frozen spinach thawed and thoroughly drained
  • One fourth cup grated mozzarella
  • In a large bowl, beat until smooth the cream cheese and mayonnaise. Blend in the Parmesan and Romano cheeses, garlic, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.
  • Gently stir in the spinach and artichokes. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Transfer mixture to dish. Top with mozzarella and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • In addition to the old standby tortilla chips, pita chips and crusty bread are good choices for dipping in this one.

And here’s one that uses dairy, but not cheese, and adds something fruity to your zesty dip choices.

Fruit Dip

Mix by hand 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream, 1 fourth t. paprika, 2 t. honey and 1 fourth cup crushed pineapple (drained). Chill for about one hour before serving for flavors to blend. You can use the juice from the pineapple to soak apple slices for dipping. Dip the usual fruits or try vanilla wafers. For a sweet/salty taste, dip mini pretzels.

A Shelter-in-Place Challenge For a Foodie

I was walking down the aisle where my grocery store displays the taco seasoning. There it was—a sign hanging next to the shelf tag where the taco seasoning would be. The sign was like many others posted throughout the store and apparently, taco seasoning was a high demand item.

This was my first trip to the store since my state’s executive order had been issued on March 24th. Taco seasoning wasn’t on my list (although toilet paper was because I was down to my last roll. That’s a story for another time). I needed something else in that aisle. I gotta tell you, that sign made me chuckle.

If you had quizzed me on what would be the highest demand items in the store, I would never have guessed taco seasoning. Taco seasoning? What? Is everyone now eating tacos instead of SpaghettiOs?

Anyway, this coronavirus pandemic creates all kinds of challenges. Especially for taco lovers, I guess.

Now, I like tacos as much as the next person, but being who I am, I don’t even buy taco seasoning anymore. It’s one of those things I mix up in my own kitchen from ingredients right in my pantry. If you’ve been reading my foodie blog posts at all, you know I cook/bake/create from scratch (and sometimes by-guess-and-by-golly). So, in case you want tacos and your store is out of pre-packaged seasoning, here’s a recipe for making your own.

Taco seasoning and pumpkin pie seasoning

Bonus? You’ll know exactly what’s in it. **

“Clean” Taco Seasoning Mix

  • 1/ 2 cup + 1 T. chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp.  ground pepper (not coarse)
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano

Mix up all the ingredients and store the stuff in a glass container. It keeps as long as any spice would when kept out of heat or moisture. For each one pound of meat you use, add 2 1/ 2 Tbsp. seasoning. This recipe makes a small batch of mild seasoning. If you like it spicier, you can add a little more chili powder or even red pepper flakes. Use it to make your tacos just like you would the store-bought kind.

While we’re at it making homemade mixes, here’s one for making cornbread mix. Its taste is identical to commercial cornbread mixes and it doesn’t have weird additives. **

“Clean” Cornbread Mix

  • 1 1/ 2 c. flour
  • 1/ 4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/ 2 c. cornmeal
  • 1 1/ 2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 3/ 4 tsp. baking soda

 Blend the ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Then, to make cornbread, mix the Clean Cornbread Mix with 1 1/ 2 cup milk, 1 1/ 2 cup vegetable oil, and 3 large eggs.

So when Taco Tuesday rolls around, you’ll have your own seasoning mix and all you need are your tortillas (or shells) plus all those fresh ingredients you like. And if you’re making chili, try your taco seasoning in that too. Just add it little by little until it comes out to your personal taste. Then make some cornbread because that always goes well with chili. Right?

Or you could have SpaghettiOs. Eat hearty!

** Small print. I check labels and this is what I found for two brand name prepackaged products you now have recipes for.

French’s® Taco Seasoning Mix. Spices and herbs, Salt, Corn starch, Dehydrated onion, Dehydrated garlic, Sugar, Citric acid, Paprika extractives, Silicon dioxide.

Jiffy® Cornbread Mix ingredients: Wheat flour, degerminated yellow corn meal, sugar, animal shortening (lard, hydrogenated lard, tocopherols preservative, BHT preservative, citric acid preservative). Contains less than 2% of each of the following: baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate, salt, wheat starch. Niacin, reduced iron, tricalcium phosphate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, silicon dioxide.

 

 

Trivia Buff Foodies

The better to see your food The perforated metal screen inside the glass of your microwave oven door is specially designed so that light (which has a short wavelength) can pass through the tiny holes, but microwave radiation (which has a longer wavelength) cannot.

Neapolitan The name of Three Musketeers candy makes a lot more sense when you discover that in the original version, the candy came with three bars: one chocolate, one vanilla, and one strawberry.

Candy Lands Due to licensing laws and contracts, all the Kit-Kat candy bars made in the USA are produced by Hershey’s and all the Kit-Kats made in the rest of the world are produced by Nestle.

Milk’s best friend Oreo cookies were introduced in 1912 and are the best-selling cookies in the United States.

Now you’re cooking with PAM Introduced in the early 1960s, PAM cooking spray wasn’t named after a woman named Pam. It was an acronym for the inventor: Product of Arthur Meyerhoff.

Say Cheese Monterey Jack is named after a person–David Jack, the first person to sell it commercially–and a place, Monterey, Alta California, home to the 18th century friars who made the original cheese.

Pop goes the popping The popular brand of popcorn, Act II, was preceded by Act I—a product notable because it was made with real butter and required refrigeration.

How does your garden grow? The tomato is the most popular vegetable grown by American gardeners with 86% of gardeners planting it each year.

Food Snobs The iconic “Big Mac” McDonald’s burger wasn’t always known as such; invented and marketed in Pittsburgh, it was originally called “The Aristocrat”, then “The Blue Ribbon Burger.”

Airbag Potato chip bags are filled with nitrogen gas to prevent spoilage and soggy chips. The extra “air” also helps protect the chips from being damaged by rough handling during the shipping process.

Spicing things up When it comes to spice production, nobody can hold a candle to India. Around 75 percent of all the spices in the world are produced there and they out produce the next contender,  Bangladesh, by tenfold.

Anything worth waiting for Tabasco Sauce, that iconic spicy American condiment, takes three years to produce. Most of that time is invested in the fermentation process, which helps soften and break down the raw peppers without cooking them.

Eat Hardy!

 

 

 

 

Foodie Friday: 8 More Ways to Use Herbs

Last week’s Foodie Friday post offered ten ways to use herbs. We saw tips on how to enhance the flavors of different meats and for creating your own seasoning blends. This time, let’s look at those same ideas for pasta and vegetables.

When working with pasta, you can add new twists to familiar tastes. For instance:

  • Using ground nutmeg smooths out the flavor of Alfredo sauce. Ground mustard, rosemary, parsley and black pepper go well with savory mushroom sauces. Sprinkle tarragon over a primavera recipe.
  • Thyme, rosemary, oregano leaves, garlic powder, and black pepper are good with any pasta salad recipe. Here’s a fruity take on pasta salad. Italian seasoning, basil, crushed red pepper, garlic and onion powders, and oregano give hearty flavor to pasta soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • The several varieties of sauces we use for pasta work well depending on the type of noodle used. Shape and size determine the best choices. Capellini, angel hair, fettuccine, linguini and spaghetti work the best with smooth, thin sauces or sauces with chopped ingredients. Shaped pasta like mostaccioli, penne, rotelle, rotini and ziti are best used with chunky and heavier sauces. Large shells and manicotti lend themselves well to being stuffed with a hearty red sauce or cheese sauce.
  • If you’ve never tried making your own pesto sauce, try this easy recipe which goes well with those finer pastas like angel hair, fettuccine, linguini and spaghetti.

Whether your vegetable dish is a salad or you’re dressing up baked or steamed veggies, herbs will prove a welcome addition.

  • Potato salads, green salads, vegetable salads perk up with dill weed, celery salt, paprika, and white or black pepper. For a new sensation, use lemon pepper seasoning on green leafy vegetables like salad greens, spinach, kale, mustard, collard or mustard greens. Season corn, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash with ginger, cardamom, dill weed, chives, onion powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace, marjoram, or thyme.

When it comes to fish, they fall into categories of mild, moderate and full flavors as other meats do.

  • For delicately flavored fish like flounder, sole, orange roughy, or trout, enhance them with thyme, tarragon, dill weed, garlic powder, oregano or white or black pepper. The moderate flavors of salmon, snapper, catfish and rock fish peak up with dill weed, Italian seasoning, tarragon, lemon and pepper seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, or pepper. Tuna and swordfish are full-flavored fish. They wake up to the addition of basil, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme, garlic powder, and red or black pepper. Tilapia With Corn Salsa satisfies a craving for Mexican food.
  • When cooking shrimp or scallops or for creating any seafood recipe, try tarragon, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, lemon pepper, red or black pepper or parsley. Whether steaming crabs or broiling lobster, the unique flavors of dry mustard, red pepper, lemon pepper and chives work well.
  • Substitutions are helpful to know because, when you’re out of something fresh, something from your cupboard comes in handy. For 1 medium-sized onion, use 1 tablespoon onion powder. One eighth teaspoon garlic powder. One half teaspoon garlic salt is a substitute for 1 medium clove of garlic. Substitute one fourth teaspoon ginger for 1 teaspoon fresh ginger. In general, for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon dried herbs.

It may sound strange, but this Spinach Chicken Manicotti uses nutmeg and basil along with the main ingredients.

 And a fast, easy tuna dish, Tuna Crescent Rings.

Remember to have fun while you navigate the kitchen and try new herb combinations. You might even decide you’d like to start your own herb garden. Then you’ll really be a Foodie!

 

 

photo credits Taste of Home