Category Archives: Dips and Sauces

Fresh garden salsa

 

Salsa is a beloved condiment in many cultures. The ingredients can vary widely, but basically always contains tomatoes and chilies of some sort. “Salsa” is the Spanish word for sauce, and may come in many forms such as pureed until smooth, a combination of smooth and chunky, or the uniformly diced pico de gallo.

Salsa can be wickedly spicy to light and fruity. See Wikipedia for a long list of salsa types. Basically any fresh fruit and/or vegetable, diced or blended, with or without fresh herbs, can be called a salsa.

Fresh salsa right out of the garden, just lightly diced, is my favorite kind. I like to see the chunks of what I’m eating in bright technicolor on my tortilla chip. This salsa is amazing on its own, or you could spoon it over fresh white fish fillets, onto tacos, or into a soup with rice, beans & diced chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherry or pear tomatoes
  • 2-10 large tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, diced
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
  • Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Handful fresh chives, chopped
  • 4-5 tbsp lime juice, or juice of 2 fresh limes
  • Sea salt to taste

IMG_5158

Step 1: Dice up all your tomatoes and onions. This part takes a little time, but is well worth it. It is up to you how big to dice, or you can puree part of the tomatoes or all of them. Totally up to you.

IMG_5284

Step 2: In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, herbs, and lime juice. That’s really all there is to it!

IMG_5160

This salsa is wonderfully fresh and vibrantly colored. It is super healthy for you, so throw it into everything, or just eat spoonfuls!

IMG_5159

Fresh Herb Salt

 

This idea came from an old “Midwest Living” magazine article I read while on vacation. In it they had several tips for making fancy kitchen condiments at home. Why buy expensive infused olive oil when you can make it yourself? Don’t let excess herbs go to waste, make your own seasoned salt to use long after summer is set!

A friend of mine has an herb garden that includes basil, so I asked for a handful of leaves and she kindly complied. A few cloves of garlic and some pink Himalayan sea salt, and I had myself the makings of a tasty seasoning! Adjust the type of herb and amounts to suit your own tastes.

Ingredients:

  • About 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup sea salt, coarse

IMG_4622

Step 1: Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until leaves and garlic is finely ground.

IMG_4623

Step 2: Spread flat to dry for 1-3 days. The leaves and garlic have moisture which will cause clumps if you don’t do this step.

IMG_4658

Step 3: You can use as is, or grind the spices together one more time. Use a funnel to pour into a seal-able container.

IMG_4659

And that’s it! Now you have a unique, fresh herb salt to sprinkle on chicken or fish, mix into rice dishes, or use a dash on garden-fresh tomatoes. Change up the type of herb and other ingredients you use for endless possible combinations.

IMG_4742

Other ideas and recipes from the same magazine clipping. Can’t wait to try them all! They would all make a darling gift for someone if put into a cute little re-useable glass or plastic container with a bow.

Lean Green Guacamole

 

Not going to lie, I absolutely LOVE avocados. I think they make just about anything better, including all kinds of Mexican food, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and dips. Never would I turn down guacamole. Especially Chipotle’s… there’s magic in there, and maybe some crack.

So when I read a recipe on Sparkpeople for guacamole involving extra healthy green stuff, I had to try it out!

This recipe adds in the goodness of greens and cucumber to add extra vitamins and bulk. It also decreases how much fat you eat per serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • Garlic salt

IMG_4672

Step 1: Dice up your veggies, peel and pit the avocado. Use a knife to cut all the way around it, then twist to separate halves. Pull out the pit by running a spoon along it and then pop it out.

IMG_4673

Step 2: Combine in a blender all ingredients. Save 1/2 of one avocado if you like extra chunks, and wait to add diced onion if you like the crunch bites. I just blended all of it together into one creamy mess.

IMG_4674

Step 3: Try really hard to keep yourself from eating the whole bowl!

IMG_4675

This stuff is so delicious. I found it a little bit watery, probably because the cucumber I used was getting old. The cucumber does give it a bit of a fresher taste, so don’t be alarmed. Add as much lemon or lime juice as you like. You could use fresh garlic cloves in place of garlic salt if you have it.

If you follow the recipe from Sparkpeople exactly, here’s the Nutrition Info breakdown:

  • Servings Per Recipe: 8
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 76.4
  • Total Fat: 6.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 143.8 mg
  • Total Carbs: 4.7 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
  • Protein: 1.0 g

Sweetly Simple Barbeque Sauce

 

One of my favorite things about football season is the food. Delicious, greasy bar food with the occasional bit of healthy thrown in to pretend (I’m looking at you, those two celery sticks that come with five sides of ranch and bleu cheese and two dozen hot wings).

But not all of it is unhealthy, and one really great option to make healthier without much extra work is BBQ pulled pork. I’ve already written about how much I love crock pots and how to make pulled pork in one.

But you can take it one step further by making your own BBQ sauce. This lets you control how much sugar goes into it, along with everything else. This sauce can of course be used for anything which could use some sweet/spicy/smoky flavor. Feel free to mix it up to your own tastes, adding extra chiles or less sugar, whatever.

Ingredients:
1 cup ketchup
1 small can tomato sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple juice
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp sriracha/hot sauce
1 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp Worchestershire

Step 1: Simply combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.
Step 2: Pour over/brush onto your grilled meat of choice.
You can use it as a dipping sauce, condiment, marinade…
If it’s too thin, add some flour or cornstarch to thicken it up. If it’s too thick, add some extra tomato sauce or vinegar to thin it out. The longer you let it mix, the more the flavors will meld. Store in the refrigerator up to a week.

Lemon Pollock with Olive Tapenade

 

Fish is healthy and delicious, especially white fish like Alaskan pollock, but it can be bland or boring. Some think this is a negative, but I see it as a huge perk. Fish is the perfect neutral, like a flattering beige sweater or couch. You can dress it up however you like, and it goes well with all types of spices, cooking styles, toppings, and side dishes.

Tapenade is a classical Provençal French dip slash topping. It has also been growing in popularity in other areas of the world, like Greece and the US. The base ingredient is olives. The rest of the ingredients vary by location and chef. Typically, capers, olive oil, garlic, and anchovy fillets are also involved. But there are plenty of variations in which you don’t need anchovy, or no olive oil. (I had sardines, not anchovy, so I used that instead. And it turned out fine.)

Ever since I bought a jar of pimiento and a jar of kalamata olives, I’ve been wanting to make olive tapenade. I finally put it on my meal plan, and made it with some white fish fillets. It was indeed everything I ever dreamed it would be!

It is an amazing topping for fish, but I imagine there are so many other possible uses. Spread on crusty bread slices, a condiment for a sandwich, in pasta like pesto, a dip for crudites, a stuffing for poultry, or as a salad dressing. The possibilities are endless! And it keeps for some time in the fridge, as long as you pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to preserve it. So make a big batch.

25599
Photo from Joyful Abode

Ingredients:

  • 3 white fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • Salt + pepper
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes

Olive Tapenade

  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup olives, pits removed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 anchovy or sardine fillet
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice

IMG_2665

Step 1: In a frying pan, place the three fish fillets and cover with lemon juice & fish sauce. Cover with a lid and let cook for 5-7 minutes, then flip. When fish is fully white and flakes easily with a fork, it is ready. Season as desired.

IMG_2672

Step 2: While fish cooks, place olives in a blender or food processor. Meanwhile, boil the rice in 1 cup water and 1 can of diced tomatoes, not drained for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked.

IMG_2673

Step 3: Blend the olives. Add the garlic, sardine, lemon juice, and a few tbsp olive oil. Blend, adding extra juice or oil as needed to make it smooth.

IMG_2686

Step 4: Place a scoop of rice on a plate, add a fish fillet and a smear of the tapenade topping.

IMG_2688

I got a little creative with the plating. Which do you think looks best?

IMG_2693

The fish is tart and moist yet firm, and is a perfect canvas for the olive masterpiece. The level of saltiness will depend on which type of olive(s) you use, I had a combination of green pimiento and kalamata. You can omit the sardine or anchovy fillet if you don’t have it or don’t like it, but I think it adds an extra layer of “seafood” taste, and since they were packed in tomato paste they also added a subtle tomato flavor.

This is a great, healthy alternative to something like mayonnaise or hummus, with lower fat and carb content yet a huge hit of flavors. Take a walk on the Mediterranean side and try some tapenade today.

 

Pineapple Pancake Syrup

.
While maple syrup is delightful, sometimes you feel a little bolder at breakfast time. When I get bored or simply want something unexpected, I make up my own syrups. Since I had a huge amount of leftover pineapple upside down cake and sweet potato pancakes from breakfast at Snooze in Denver (which could be a huge post in its own right, seriously GO THERE, it’s amazing), I decided to make a pineapple-y syrup to go with them. This would be a great syrup to make and have breakfast in bed for Valentine’s Day (or the Saturday following).
.
Ingredients:
1/2 can pineapple chunks
1/4 cup pineapple juice from can
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice

Step 1: Put all ingredients into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer 5-20 minutes, until it thickens to your liking.

These were the sweet potato pancakes, so those got extra love: melted marshmallows!

Step 2: Pour over pancakes. Stuff yourself silly, and smile. I bet this would taste great over my Perfect Pancakes too.



What’s your favorite way to top pancakes?

 

Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels

.
I’ve had a love affair with everything you can make homemade for quite some time now. From homemade oven-baked bread (that didn’t work very well… I need to try that again), to perfect pancakes, applesauce muffins, and even infused liquor, I love when I can take a few simple ingredients and make a whole lot of something I otherwise would have to buy at the store. Someday soon I will foray into making my own yogurt, bagels, kombucha, and sauerkraut too. 
.
One thing I’ve had in the back of my mind to try was soft pretzels. They seemed like an easy enough task, though I wasn’t sure. History claims that a very long time ago, AD 610 according to TLC Cooking, a monk was frustrated with his class and had some leftover bread dough. He rolled the dough out into rolls and made the iconic pretzel shape to resemble hands crossed in prayer. Originally called “pretiola”, Latin for “little reward”, they were quickly re-named “brachiola” which means “little arms”. They reached Germany, where they became a huge hit and were known as bretzels. This translated in America to pretzels, and so the famous street/fair/and sports event food took its place in our history.
.
So when I found on Sally’s Baking Addiction a 30 Minute Pretzel recipe, I knew I had to try it. However, my favorite soft pretzel is the Auntie Anne’s cinnamon raisin with glaze, so rather than a plain salt that’s what I was after. With a few tweaks, I was sure I could re-create that $6 treat for far less. This recipe ended up making 8 medium-sized pretzels. I’m sure you could cut it in half for one, or make smaller ones for young-uns. You can also omit the cinnamon and use less sugar and just roll in sea salt for regular soft pretzels and dip in mustard or cheese. In fact, I think I’ll need to make another batch of plain this weekend…
.
Ingredients:
1.5 cups water
1 packet yeast
1 cup sugar or brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins
4 cups flour plus extra
2 eggs, beaten
.
Step 1: Pour the yeast into 1 1/2 cups warm-ish water and stir. You don’t have to wait for anything to rise, just mix it well.
Step 2: Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. (Flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and raisins). Add in the yeasty water and mix with your hands. Add more flour if needed. Once you have a fairly rubbery dough, break off a fist-sized chunk and place on a floured surface.

Step 3: Roll the dough out into a long strand, then cross it over into the pretzel shape. I’m actually going to try making letters and other shapes next time.

The next step is optional. Rumor has it boiling in baking soda water gives pretzels that chewy texture and browned color. Boil 1 cup baking soda in 9-10 cups water. Dunk the pretzels, and let boil for 5 minutes, then dry on a rack before baking. **Oh wait… it said 30 seconds. That could explain a lot. Only leave them in the boiling soda water for 30 seconds if you do this step**

A little hint: putting a wooden spoon across the top of a pot keeps it from boiling over. At least up to a certain point.

My post-baking conclusion was that while the boiling did cause a different color and taste, I like the pretzels without the baking soda step better, so I won’t be doing that in the future. However feel free to experiment yourself, maybe the altitude has something to do with it… #ColoradoBakingProblems

Step 4: Beat the eggs in a flat bowl/plate and coat the pretzels fully.

Step 5: Brush on some butter and cinnamon/sugar if you want extra sweetness. Bake the pretzels at 425 for 10-15 minutes, until nicely browned. Make sure to watch for burning.

Step 6: To make the glaze, take 1 cup powdered sugar and mix in 2 tbsp melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla flavoring, and 1-3 tbsp milk (depending on the consistency you want).

Drizzle the glaze over your pretzels and enjoy!

Warm and chewy right out of the oven, these pretzels were fantastic! Just as good, if not better, than anything I’ve had from a mall or baseball field. Will definitely be making these regularly, they are so easy and take less than a half hour total time.
.
National Pretzel Day is April 26, so you have plenty of time to practice and perfect your favorite recipe!
.
80% of all pretzels in the United States are made in Pennsylvania, where the hard pretzel originated. Unfortunately the Pretzel Museum in Philadelphia has closed, but they leave behind some fun facts:
.
bullet Pretzels without salt are called baldies.

bullet An 1859 parade in New Orleans featured a float carrying a pretzel-baking machine.
bullet An average pretzel has 3.5 grams of fat and 260 calories.
bullet German kids wear pretzels around their neck for good luck on New Year’s. 
bullet Pretzels top some Christmas trees in Austria.
bulletA page in the prayer book used by Catharine of Cleves depicts St. Bartholomew surrounded by pretzels which were thought to bring good luck, prosperity and spiritual wholeness.
.
For lots more fun facts on pretzels check out the TLC website.


What’s your favorite type of pretzel or topping?



Picnic favorite: 9-layer Taco Dip

 

I’m going to a park to play volleyball with some friends, and we will grill and have a picnic afterwards. Everyone brings something to share. I wanted to make something different from your typical hot dogs and chips type food, and anything taco-related is always a hit, so this is what I came up with. Since I already had the majority of ingredients, only needed to buy the lettuce and tomato, this was super cheap. Even if I had to re-buy everything, for a party of 10 or so people this is a cheap side/dip. It is nearly filling enough to count as a meal!

Ingredients.
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup taco seasoning
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz sour cream
1 can refried beans
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/2 ripe tomato
1/4 head of lettuce, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup sliced black olives

Step 1: Brown the ground beef in a skillet. While cooking, layer the cream cheese on the bottom of an 8×8 pan with a spoon.

Step 2: Spread the sour cream on top of the cream cheese. Now you have 2 layers of cheesy goodness to build your mexi-masterpiece on top of.

Step 3: Open the refried beans and mix it up in the can. You can heat this first, I just scooped it right out of the can and layered it on.

That’s 3 if you’re counting.

Step 3: Once beef is cooked, add the taco seasoning and 1/4 cup water and cook until the water boils off. The beef should now smell tangy and reminiscent of Taco Bell. Pour that over the beans and spread evenly.

Step 4: Add as much salsa as you like on top of the beef. I just put about 1/4 cup since I’m adding real tomato as well.

Step 5: Add a healthy handful of shredded cheddar or whatever type of cheese you like. We’re up to 6 layers now…

Step 6: Cut the lettuce into small strips and cover the cheese with crunchy green goodness.

Step 7: Dice up a big fresh red tomato into small chunks and add those on top.

Step 8: Sprinkle the sliced black olives on top to complete the pretty picture.

And there you have it, 9 layers of tasty chip-ready dip! You can of course omit any layers you don’t particularly like, and it’s also an option to toss this in the oven or microwave for a few minutes after the cheese layer to warm up the meat/beans/cheeses before topping with the fresh veggies if you like it warm.

Feta and Red Pepper hummus

 

As a spread, appetizer or snack, hummus is filling, satisfying and nutritious. You can eat it with fresh veggies or crackers, or spread it on a sandwich, wrap, burger, gyro and more. I love hummus, and had some chickpeas left over from an earlier curry recipe, so I decided to make a snack.

Most hummus recipes call for tahini, of which I had none, so I created my own recipe. I love garlic hummus, and red pepper hummus, and feta cheese hummus. So I figured, why not combine it all!? Turns out that was an excellent idea, and I hope you think so too.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup garbanzo beans/chickpeas
2 tbsp feta (~1 oz)
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp water
1 clove garlic, diced
2 tbsp red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seed
Dash salt & pepper

Step 1: Blend the first 4 ingredients in the blender, scraping sides with a spoon. Add water until desired thickness.

Step 2: Add all spices, mix well and pour onto serving dish.

Step 3: It’s that easy, now enjoy! I cut up a carrot, a celery stick, a roma tomato and had some wheat thin crackers. Delicious!

Amount Per Serving (1/4 cup)
  Calories 215.4
  Total Fat 15.9 g
  Saturated Fat 3.0 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 10.5 g
  Cholesterol 6.3 mg
  Sodium 298.6 mg
  Potassium 140.7 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 14.9 g
  Dietary Fiber 2.9 g
  Sugars 0.2 g
  Protein 4.2 g

Radish, onion & herb cheese dip

.
Sadly I don’t remember where the inspiration for this dip came from, but I read on another blog about putting fresh raw radishes into a dip, and decided to make my own version based on what I had in my house.
.
Dip:
1 package cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup radishes, diced very small
1/4 cup red onion, diced small
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried onion
~1/2 tbsp sea salt

Step 1: Mix room temperature cream cheese and sour cream in a bowl until blended. The dip should be spreadable but a spoon could stand up in it.

Step 2: Add in all the other ingredients, and mix well. Serve with whatever crackers you like. This was a hit at a small gathering I had!

Addictive farm fresh dip!