Homemade dips

Just a quick round-up of our standard home-made dips.

I just posted this to my cooking group on Facebook and I wanted to save it here. May do posts about these later, and please feel free to point me to your own dip recipes.


I hate store-bought pre-made dips because they have some chemical in them that tastes off/sour to me. I used to do the Lipton onion soup dip thing, but no more. In general, we don’t use packets to make dip any more. We either eat salsa (store-bought or homemade) or I make the dip. They’re easier than I thought they would be before I started doing them. My go-to dips:

French onion: sour cream, dried onions, and something salty/umami: sometimes beef Better Than Buillon, but if we don’t have that, then oyster sauce, or failing that, just a bunch of salt and maybe a pinch of MSG (we’re not sensitive to it).

Green onion: Sour cream, sliced scallions, salt (or seasoned salt), LOTS of black pepper, and something acidic (some combination of lemon juice, vinegar, mayo).

Sour-cream salsa dip: Exactly what it sounds like

Nacho sauce: Make cheese sauce; best to use a screaming orange cheese so it looks right, but any cheese sauce will do. Add some pickled jalapenos that have been diced, along with some of the liquid from the jar.

Bean dip: Fry up some onions in oil/butter/water/whatever. Add refried beans (canned or homemade, pinto/black/whatever) and whatever salsa is on hand, along with whatever cheese is on hand. Heat through and serve.

Spinach dip: 1 cup sour cream; 1 cup mayo; 10 ounces spinach, cooked and drained well; 1 bunch green onions, chopped; 2-4 tablespoons dried onions or dried soup vegetables; salt and pepper to taste; 1 small can water chestnuts, chopped (optional).

Garlic-herb Monkey Bread

An impressive bread for company, even if the company is your mother.

I may have mentioned a few times here that my mom didn’t bake bread. That said, she LOVES the stuff, and every time she visits, I try to bake her favorite New York Times bread, and one or more other things.

This visit, she was well enough to eat (which doesn’t always happen), so I had a blast cooking for her: a full Thanksgiving dinner and everything! One of my own favorites this time was this monkey bread:

garlic-herb monkey bread

It’s pretty to look at, but it’s also really fun to eat. It’s like a pan full of garlic-bread rolls, and you pull one off and, if you’re me, you hope for lots of those little bits of browned garlic on yours. The bottom ones are browned, too, so it’s good all the way through, and it keeps for about 3 days on the counter, or a week in the fridge.

Garlic-herb Monkey Bread
Recipe type: Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
For the bread
  • 300 g milk, any fat level
  • 500 g flour
  • 40 g sugar
  • 9 g salt
  • 6 g yeast
  • 15 g butter
For the garlic-herb butter
  • ½ stick butter (2 oz., 4 tablespoons)
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ tsp. granulated garlic
  • other herbs as desired (I used a pinch each of rosemary, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, and celery salt)
  1. I made the bread dough for this in my stand mixer, because I was also making a batch of dinner rolls, which I’ll share with you later this week. No need to proof the dough or anything — just toss it in the stand mixer for ten minutes, or use your bread machine’s “dough” setting, or knead by hand for 20 minutes or until it feels like a good, solid, soft dough.
  2. The first rise takes about an hour. I did it in a lightly oiled pottery bowl, but your bread machine or a the bowl of the mixer is just fine.
  3. When it’s risen to twice its size, gently punch down the dough until it’s deflated. Melt the butter with the herbs in it, either on the stove or in the microwave.
  4. Next, pull off tangerine-sized chunks of dough — no need to be exact here — and shape them into little balls. Now, using only one hand, dip each ball into the butter and place into a high-sided baking dish (any shape). I only use one hand so that the other one stays cleanish for grabbing the next ball of dough. Keep doing this until you’re out of dough. Cover with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let rise again for 45 minutes or so. Toward the end of this rise, turn the oven on 350°F (375 if you’re using a metal pan).
  5. Bake for around 30 minutes, until the bread is nice and browned

Mertie’s Mondays: Acadian Stuffing and Turkey Sandwiches

Pull up a chair and have some stuffing and a slice of soup from frequent contributor Chris Hansen.

[Note from Serene: I’ve been hanging on to this recipe of Chris’s until the cool weather returned. And now I’m at school and wishing I had stuffing to eat! Thanks, Chris, for another great story, and for introducing me to another new food!]

I think that all of us who cook want to duplicate items our moms cooked. However, much of the time moms cook by touch and feel and experience, and don’t write down a recipe. Decades later, you remember something she used to make but can’t duplicate it for lack of a recipe.

My mom made the best stuffing imaginable. We used to look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas simply because we’d get turkey with her stuffing. I remember being in the kitchen when she’d make it, and what I could remember of it was that it was a combination of potatoes and bread with spices and onions. But, I didn’t want to experiment and I thought to myself that the stuffing recipe was lost forever.

However, I recently bought a cookbook called A Taste of Acadie, by Marielle Cormier-Boudreau and Melvin Gallant. Acadie, or Acadia, is the name of the area of Nova Scotia inhabited by French-Canadians. A goodly number of them left for warmer climes in Louisiana, and turned from Acadians into Cajuns, keeping their taste for fish but leaving other food preferences behind.

A quick flip through the book will show that the great resource on which a goodly amount of Acadian cookery is based is the potato. Rappie pie is made from grated potato with the water squeezed out, layered with meat and baked. Potato pancakes also feature.

The first time I went through the book I didn’t pick up on the Acadian stuffing recipe. However, a week or so ago I came across Acadian stuffing and, lo and behold, my mom’s stuffing recipe jumped out at me. It makes sense, as my mom probably got her recipe from her mom, who was born and raised in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. My grandmother’s father was a sea cook, working on the fishing vessels that sailed from Lunenburg to the Grand Banks to catch the cod that figured in many Acadian recipes.

I suppose that I should really keep this recipe for Thanksgiving or Christmas, when turkey is on the menu. But I am so excited by it that I can’t wait that long. It’s like discovering a long-lost novel that you read years ago. You have to read it again as soon as you’ve found it.

Start out with mashed potatoes. For a chicken 2 potatoes, mashed (no butter or milk) should be sufficient. Do not rice the potatoes, as lumps are good in this recipe.

Then take three pieces of bread, dry them in an oven, and crumble them. Chop 1 onion and 2 ribs of celery, and sauté them in 3 tbsp. butter. Add the bread crumbs and brown lightly, then add the mashed potatoes, salt and pepper, and 1 tbsp summer savory or Bell’s Seasoning. If the mixture is a bit dry, add a bit of water or chicken stock to moisten. Stuff your bird and roast as usual.

If you’re roasting a turkey, increase all the amounts in the recipe and if you can’t get all the stuffing in the bird, put it in a pyrex dish and bake it along with the bird.

My mom also used to stuff pork chops with this stuffing. After making the stuffing, take thick pork chops and cut a horizontal pocket in the side of the chop. Spoon stuffing into that pocket and bake as usual. You can also just pile the stuffing on top of the chop—it browns very nicely.

A word about summer savory. The Wikipedia article says that it’s used in Atlantic Canada in preference to sage. I have to say that I have never heard of it, and my mom never used it in this recipe, to my knowledge. What she used is Bell’s Seasoning. I do not know whether this is available nationwide in the US—I do know it’s not available here, but I will be bringing some back with me next time I visit Marblehead. If you can’t source Bell’s Seasoning, use sage.

You may think this is total nostalgia on my part, and you may also be right. Nostalgia is good. Aching after your past, even though you will never experience it again, helps you keep in mind the good times, the bad times, the people you loved and who loved you, the places you lived and visited, and is a memorial to all that has gone into making you you.

I remember leftover turkey going into sandwiches on Thanksgiving night. Take two slices of white bread and slather both with mayonnaise. Cover the bottom slice with sliced turkey breast, then a layer of my mom’s stuffing, then a few spoonfuls of cranberry sauce. Salt and pepper to taste, then cover with the other piece of bread and enjoy. These were absolutely delicious and were just enough to keep people who’d gorged in the early afternoon from getting hungry at 8 pm. I had leftover chicken today, but no stuffing. The sandwich I made didn’t taste the same without the stuffing, but it was close.

I’ll end with a holiday Momfood disaster that I forgot to recount in my previous post covering things my Mom didn’t get quite right. Leftover turkey is always a problem, and my mom wanted to make turkey soup. She had a recipe from her mother, and this recipe specified ½ tbsp of barley. Mom looked at the puny (to her) amount of barley and decided that the recipe must have been wrong. She put in half a cup.

When we were finally called to dinner, Mom gave us each a slice of turkey “soup”, as the amount of barley had soaked up all the liquid in the soup. As with all my mom’s culinary disasters, it tasted delicious, and whenever I have stuffing, or chicken, or turkey, I think of that slice of soup. It would go very well with stuffing.

Gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread cookies to stave off the missing-you feeling that will start tomorrow.

My kid is leaving tomorrow. She’s coming back in a week, but she’ll be gone. In order to maintain the proper levels of chaos, we’ll be having her brother visiting while she’s gone, so don’t worry that we’ll have some peace and quiet or anything crazy like that.

The past couple days, she’s been very sweet and loving and a little clingy. This is normal when she’s going to be gone (or after she comes back), and I cleared today to have as our Christmas. (We moved Thanksgiving, after all, why not move Christmas? We’re holiday scofflaws!)

Today, we went and did our laundry together (What? You don’t do laundry on Christmas? Huh.), then shopped for her favorite dinner (kalua pig, using a dearly departed friend Kili’s recipe). Once dinner was in the oven, we decided to pull all the two-player games out of the cupboard and start playing through them.

She kicked my butt at checkers (then I kicked hers). We played a bunch of rounds of mancala. I can’t remember who won at Scrabble.

Then we exchanged gifts. Not many, because we’re pretty broke, but she liked her jacket and her game about poo. Long story.

And then the cookies, and more games. Note the poo theme. If you have little kids, this is your friendly reminder that they will be teenagers one day.

cookies: house, rectangles, word "hi", gingerbread person, jellyfish, heart, pile of poo
Yes, you are seeing things correctly. That's a pile of poo. Photo courtesy of my kid, a.k.a. Joan Ortiz.

After the cut ones, we gave up and made some round ones, and baked them only until they were soft. The kid likes soft cookies.

round cookies

I’ll miss her. She’ll miss me more, because at least while I’m missing her, I get to be in my own home. She has to deal with the relatives in Mexico. I won’t really relax until she’s back here with me.

Hold each other tight, dear ones.