Everyone Loves Corn Dip

I spent last weekend in lovely Lexington, Kentucky (and I apologize to the Lexingtonians that I love and didn’t get the chance to see this time around. I promise I’ll catch you next time, or at NCA?) Man, I miss that place. I didn’t get to fully appreciate it during my three years living there: my weekends & free time were spent either working or traversing I-75 to see my sweetie. Don’t get me wrong: Rosalie, our friends and I still had fun. We just didn’t get to fully “live” in Lexington the way normal, non-grad-school-stressed-out people get to. (BTW friends who are still in grad school and getting gray hairs at the ripe old age of 25: chill out & enjoy Lex while you can. I mean it. Put down the Polkinghorne and just enjoy your weekends every once in a while. It’ll do your soul some good. Working constantly turns the nicest whales into the meanest sharks. I’m speaking from experience. LBD has spoken.)

This probably explains why I love going back so much. I get to just enjoy the bluegrass for what it is: a fantastic place to live. I was most excited about seeing some of the people who made my time in Lexington worthwhile, but I was also excited about a Saturday morning run, on my old route.

The Chevy Chase and historic neighborhoods are simply fantastic for running. I did a short out-and-back on Chinoe, then ran down Richmond for a while, then turned back and winded through some of the neighborhoods near High Street. I love house watching on those roads – to say the houses are charming is a complete understatement. They are the cutest stinking houses in the whole world.

After my run, Rose, Steve, precious baby Harrison, and our other housemates Cat & Dave went to Keeneland for a day at the races.

(Rose actually won some money! #5 surprised us by winning at the end!)

After dinner, we had a few people over to hang out, play games, and watch some football. I was in charge of stocking our rental house with snack items for the weekend, so of course that meant I had to make corn dip. Here’s my beautiful friend Aubrey, modeling the corn dip.

Corn dip is always a hit. I’ve been making it since Loren’s sweet mom Barbara introduced us all to it after a long day of playing in Lake Hartwell, one summer while we were still at Auburn. We were starving after boating, tubing (I still have scars on my right foot from hanging on so tightly and not sure I’ve laughed or screamed that hard since), and futile attempts at water skiing (that would be me, not Loren, who’s a pro), and I’m pretty sure we tore into this dip like we hadn’t eaten in weeks. It’s been a tailgate staple ever since! We’ve played with the recipe over the years, and even come up with some variations. Here’s the recipe the way I started making it, which I think is close enough to the original.

Corn Dip

8 oz package cream cheese (full fat or 1/3 less fat – just don’t use fat free), at room temperature

1 can corn, drained

1 can Rotel tomatoes, drained

1 tablespoon chili powder

pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, transfer to an oven safe baking dish (small one), and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir to combine, then heat for another 10 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Variations:

Original Corn Dip: I think the actual recipe calls for a can of yellow corn and a can of white corn, which also means you should use more than 1 8 oz package of cream cheese. But, I started short-cutting a long time ago, and the single can version of this dip works fine. Oh, Loren also used dried cilantro in her dip.

Cilantro Corn Dip: add a handful of fresh cilantro to the mix, stirred in after baking. I left out cilantro, obviously, because some people think it tastes like soap.

Cold Corn Dip: Lindsey makes this version all the time, and I actually like it better, especially in the summer. She just combines everything together once the cream cheese is at room temperature, then sticks it in the fridge. It’s delicious cold on hot days!

Corn Bean Dip: add a can of drained black beans to the mix. Now you’ve got yourself a “healthy” snack with the addition of fiber!

I hope you enjoy whatever variation of corn dip you choose to make this football season.

 

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Dark Chocolate & Almond Snack

Have you ever been preparing to leave your house, and it just seems like you can’t get out the door? You think you have everything you need and you get in your car and right at the last minute you realize, “oh no, where are my keys?” or “wait, where’s my phone?” or “I’d better make sure I have the Garmin; LBD’s with me and she’s probably going to get us lost.”

There’s a phrase for this: “preliminary leaving.” My mom started this years ago, and it stuck since it worked so well (long story as short as I can make it: I think she got tired of my dad and me constantly complaining about she and Heath not being “ready to go” when we were supposedly “ready,” anytime we were about to leave the house together for any reason. Eventually, whenever we thought we were ready to go, she’d just say, “ok, preliminary leaving; hang on & let’s make sure we have everything.” Then, it became a task. A thing. Something else of great importance to do, that I could take part in. She knew me way too well to know that sort of trick would work on me. I don’t think I complained about leaving late ever again – we were doing preliminary leaving procedures; we couldn’t leave until they were done!)

Today, with my close family & friends who go places with me often, this is a known part of the getting-ready-to-leave ritual. Here’s how it works.

Whenever you think you’re ready to leave the house, you should verbally state the phrase “preliminary leaving!” Say it with enthusiasm, and say it loudly. Everyone needs to hear the declaration.

Upon declaration of “preliminary leaving” status, all relevant persons must consciously and conscientiously join you in preliminary leaving procedures, which include, but are not limited to:

* double checking to ensure items of importance are where they need to be (wallets in pockets; cell phone in purse; tickets in glove compartment, etc.)

* one last bathroom trip

* last minute route planning (which may include a route change pending traffic situations)

* a final outfit check (in my house, we have to make sure that Dave and I don’t match. It happens on a weekly basis. We have a tendency to wear the EXACT SAME color shirt/pant combo. It’s a serious problem. I’m sure if we have children, one day we’ll thoroughly embarrass them by dressing alike on purpose, but for now, we’ll try to maintain what little cool factor we may have left)

and, most importantly:

* the securing of beverages and food for the journey. In my house, this means, at minimum, ensuring a 32-ounce Nalgene bottle is filled with fresh water and in my hands for the trip.

Upon declaration of “preliminary leaving procedures complete,” then you are ready to begin your journey. It’s helpful in making sure you always have what you need, and you’re ready to go out the door in confidence that you’ve forgotten nothing – you’ve left a specific time available for you to remember what it is you might forget on the way out. I’ve been known to write down a preliminary leaving checklist, even – but you don’t have to take it that far.

Here’s where today’s recipe comes in: my dark chocolate & almond snack is almost always what I reach for in preliminary leaving procedures: food category. I hate to leave the house without a snack. And, this is something I can whip up in about 5 seconds, literally on my way out the door. It’s a perfect, filling combination of fiber & fat, and it’s one of those snacks that just makes me happy. I always have the ingredients on hand, always in my freezer (nuts keep better that way). I hate to even call it a “recipe” because it’s so easy.

Dark Chocolate & Almond Snack

Grab a handful of raw, unsalted almonds. Place in a ziploc bag. Grab a handful of dark chocolate chips (preferably Ghirardelli). Place in the same ziploc bag. Zip up the ziploc bag; enjoy as needed.

That’s it. The end. See? Not even a real recipe. But it’s a great little tasty snack that I hope you’ll enjoy the next time your preliminary leaving procedures call for an emergency food item to take on the run!

Granola Bars

I’m tired of store-bought granola bars. Team Dawmilam consumes a lot of them; Dave eats a peanut butter Nature’s Valley granola bar every day for breakfast, and I keep a stash of some variety (Kashi, Cascadian Farms, or even Quaker) in the “food bin” in my shared office. (Luckily, desk-mate Meredith shares my love of snacks, and she always contributes something tasty to the food bin.)

However, as I was gnawing on a Kashi peanut butter chip “chewy” bar the other day, I realized two things: (1) it tasted like cardbord, and (2) life’s just too short to eat dry, over-sugared, over-processed, no good granola bars.

A quick internet search and a nice fun visit to Harry’s later, I made these:

I basically used two recipes online for two different types of granola bars. The first version: “Hawaiian” style (there’s pineapple and macadamia nuts in there; that’s Hawaiian, right?) were basically uncooked, meaning I just poured a sugary mixture over them and allowed them to sit until they were somewhat hardened. The second version, a more traditional peanut butter/nut/seed combo, were baked for 20 minutes. I couldn’t resist taste testing them while baking, and we’ve been enjoying them all week. The jury’s still out on which one’s better. Everyone who’s tried both has a different opinion on which is better. I actually don’t have a preference: they’re both fantabulous.

Hawaiian Granola Bars

My base was this recipe, and I adjusted it slightly, as follows (had to leave out the shredded coconut since Dave hates it and I’m a good wife like that):

Toast 2 cups oats in oven for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees. While oats are toasting, chop finely some dried pineapple, dried banana slices, white chocolate chips (use sparingly), and macadamia nuts. This should total about 2 cups worth of dried, tasty, chopped up stuff. When oats are out of oven, allow to cool slightly, and stir into dried fruit & nut mixture.

In a small saucepan, heat up 1/3 cup regular brown sugar, 1/3 cup honey, 4 tablespoons butter, and some vanilla extract. Pour into dried fruit/nut/oat mixture, stir together, and spread in a baking dish that’s been lined with parchment and greased up in some way. Allow to sit for at least 3 hours before trying to cut them.

Peanut Buttery Craisin Granola Bars

Again, adapted from someone else’s recipe, as follows:

Combine the following in a bowl:

1 1/3/ cup rolled oats

1/3 cup oat flour (I made by pureeing 1/3 cup oats in the blender)

dash of salt and cinnamon

2-3 cups of dried fruit and nuts (I used slivered almonds, craisins, and sunflower seeds)

Then, combine about 1/2 cup plain sugar, 1/3 cup peanut butter, some vanilla, 1/4 cup honey, 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup, and 6 tablespoons melted butter in another bowl. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, stir together, and place in a baking dish lined with parchment and greased up in some way (I prefer butter or cooking spray). Cook at 350 for 25-30 minutes, and allow to cool for at least 3 hours before removing and trying to cut.

I can tell you from personal experience, both are just fine crumbled up into yogurt and/or consumed by the handful. No more store-bought granolas for me, unless it’s an emergency.

Giada’s White Bean Dip

We had Genay & Amy over for dinner on Saturday. Genay was to bring and grill the meat; I was to do side dishes. In an effort to be a semi-accommodating hostess, I asked him if either of them had food allergies or preferences. I get this in response:

“I dislike colloids.”

This is what happens when you’re friends with organic chemists. Instead of just saying, “I don’t like mayonnaise or mayo-based sides,” you get a chemical answer.

Now, half my appetizers are mayo-based. So how in the world was I to make a non-colloidal meal? Halfway through prepping my spinach artichoke dip (which I made anyway because it sounded good), I realized that I had a can of white beans in the cabinet, and it’d been a long time since I’d made Giada’s white bean dip.

I’ve been eating on it all week. It’s like a brighter, lemony-er version of hummus. I’ll just post the recipe here and tell you to make it for your next summer gathering, serving with Stacy’s simply sea salted pita chips. The fresh parsley here is crucial, so don’t skimp on it.

Guacamole

Since yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, I figured I’d post a favorite Mexican dish of mine: guacamole.

I actually remember the first time I had guacamole. I think I was about 14 years old. My mom made it for taco night one Saturday night in the summer. It was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on an avocado. I thought it was so strange, and couldn’t really believe I was going to try eating it. She mashed it up with a packet of “guacamole mix” and I think I ate almost all of it with some tortilla chips, all by myself. Adding avocados to our taco night was a HUGE deal. It was just so different than anything else we had at the time. Little did I know that avocados would eventually become one of my most favorite ingredients ever.

At Auburn, I started to cook for myself and was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who were all excellent cooks and who were from all over the south. To this day, my Auburn girls are still my favorite group of recipe-exchangers. One of the classics I picked up from them was Anne’s homemade guacamole. She made it for a party (one of the many) at Lex & Lindsey’s Lakeview “villa.” I remember having to exercise restraint not to take it away and eat it all by myself that night. It turns out that homemade guacamole, sans-packet-mix, is pretty dadgum tasty.

My version isn’t quite the same as Anne’s, and it changes depending on what kind of ingredients I have on hand. But yesterday, I made up what I consider an “ideal” batch. Dave and I ate it all, on top of our tilapia tacos and with tortilla chips, just the way mom used to serve it. 🙂

Guacamole (for 2 people)

In a small bowl, combine:

1 avocado, ripe, diced

juice of half a lime

about 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion

1 jalapeno, finely diced, seeded (Team Dawmilam’s a little wimpy on the spices; if you’re brave or have a high heat tolerance, by all means, leave them in)

1 small clove garlic, crushed into a paste (start by mincing it, then sprinkle a tad bit of salt on top. Using the back of your knife, mash it until it turns into a pasty consistency).

Dash of salt

some chopped cilantro (if you don’t think it tastes like soap)

Once you’ve got all those ingredients in your bowl, take a fork and mash them together, creaming the avocado but leaving a few bigger, chunky pieces for texture. Cover with plastic wrap, placing the plastic directly on top of the guacamole to prevent browning, and store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

This is simple, easy, and can be made up in a hurry. I often don’t have red onions laying around, and I never substitute white onions. They’re too strong for me to eat raw. So, I sometimes leave those out. And I’ve been known to leave out the jalapenos, too, just mashing together lime juice, avocado, salt, pepper, garlic and a dash of chili powder. Enjoy!

Pimento Cheese

Somebody get me a big ol’ glass of sweet tea, a front porch, and a sunny summer day. That’s what I want to accompany my latest snack: pimento cheese.

In preparing food for a friend’s baby shower, I realized I needed a better recipe for pimento cheese. Because, you know, you can’t have a baby shower in the south without pimento cheese, right?

I turned to my friend Josh, who recently had a conversation with me about a pimento cheese made with Velveeta instead of cheddar. I really shouldn’t knock it until I try it – Frankie’s mom apparently makes her killer pimento cheese with the gooey, melty “cheese product” also. But, I am a firm believer that there is a time and a place for Velveeta, namely whenever one wishes to make Rotel dip. I would forgive – nay, encourage – the inclusion of Velveeta under the following additional circumstances: in a grilled cheese sandwich, homemade macaroni and cheese, or melted and slathered atop steamed broccoli (don’t hate; used to be the only way I’d eat anything green). But, when it comes to pimento cheese, I’m more of a traditionalist. I want the sharp, tangy bite of cheddar that contrasts with the creaminess of some sort of mayonnaisey-cream cheesy base. The recipe I’d been using just wasn’t cutting it.

So, Josh supplied me with two pimento cheese recipes from his mom, who used to be a caterer and is an amazing cook. One was his grandmother’s recipe and incredibly simple – cheddar, mayo & pimentos with juice – but the second one, from (and I quote) “some restaurant in Athens, Georgia” stood out as what I’d been looking for. I had in mind to create a pimento cheese like the heavenly spread I had recently at Sun In My Belly (if you go? get the pimento/bacon/lettuce/fried green tomato sandwich. you’re welcome.). This recipe totally delivered. In fact, I’m having to exercise a good deal of restraint in not eating it all before tomorrow’s shower.

Pimento Cheese

1 8 -oz block of cream cheese

1 lb sharp cheddar, shredded (I bought a block of “good” cheddar and shredded it myself)

1 7-oz jar of pimentos (I drained them)

2 Tablespoons mayo

1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce

1 generous pinch salt (my addition)

Using a hand mixer, combine all the ingredients together. Works best if you first whip the cream cheese, then whip in the mayo & worcestershire, then the cheese, then pimentos.

Spread on saltines, white bread, or eat with pita chips.