Thursday, July 19, 2012

The simple joy of ranch dip/dressing/schmeer

As my regular readers already know, in the last ten years, my diet has completely changed. First I found out that I needed to avoid MSG, and then I found out all of the aliases that hide MSG on ingredient lists. The more that I read labels, the more that I began to question just exactly what it was that I was eating, and why it sounded more like science, and less like food. I eventually turned my back on almost all packaged/pre-prepared food-like substances.

The more that my diet changed, the more that our lifestyle had to change to accommodate that diet. I grew up eating canned foods, boxed/powdered mac & cheese, frozen pot pies, etc. It seemed 'normal' to open a packet that contained the flavor for whatever I was making, instead of opening the spice drawers to blend my own, so the transition has not always been smooth. It is bizarre how much I miss some things, and how happy I am when I figure out a real recipe for those flavors that were so convenient.

Salad dressing used to be so easy, it was nothing to have several bottles on hand, lots of variety. One of my favorites was the ranch that came in a paper packet and mixed with mayo, but with an ingredients list like:

Salt, monosodium glutamate, dried garlic, modified food starch, dried onion, maltodextrin, spices, less than 2% of guar gum, calcium stearate, natural flavor (soy)
-(emphasis mine- items in red represent definite, as well as possible, sources of MSG)

the packets were a no-no, and the ingredients only got worse on the bottles. To look at that list it seems simple enough, and I tried different recipes that I found online, but none of them seemed right for me. After a while, I gave up and resigned myself to vinaigrettes and an occasional guacamole or bean dip.

Recently we were invited to the lake for the day, so hubby and I put our heads together for the planning required for a social event. Naturally, I always try to bring something to share, and then I needed to figure out what we could eat that wouldn't stand out too much or require much preparation at the party. The menu that everyone else would be eating was burgers and dogs, snacks & desserts, etc, so we decided on BLT's. I baked rye bread, cooked bacon, washed the lettuce and tomatoes, and made a goat cheese & herb schmeer to use in place of mayo. I baked cookies to bring, and we bought a few bags of organic corn chips (one of the few concessions that we allow ourselves on occasion), and I decided to try to make a dip. I took some chevre (goat cheese), cultured buttermilk, and chives from our co-op, added a few things and took a taste. . . .and stopped cold. I turned to my husband and let him taste, his eyes lit up and he asked if I had written down the recipe (a sure sign of success in our house). I had not, but a day or two later I recreated the results, and I am sharing them with you.

As always, feel free to tweak, but for us this recipe is a lock. If you don't have chevre, you could substitute cream cheese.

·         1 cup cultured buttermilk
·         2 generous Tbsp chopped fresh chives
·         ¼ tsp garlic powder
·         ¾ tsp onion powder
·         ½ tsp thyme
·         ½ tsp basil
·         app ½ tsp salt (adjust to taste)
·         enough chevre to adjust consistency (more for dip, less for dressing/add by Tbsp amounts)

Mix together all ingredients. This can be used immediately, however, if made the night before and allowed to rest in the refrigerator, the flavors deepen and fully develop.

By simply using more chevre as the base, and adding buttermilk by the Tbsp, you can make a wonderful sandwich spread (or as I like to call it, schmeer) using this same recipe.

Showing this day 2011: Oatmeal Raisin Chai Spice Cookies

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Golden Chai

I am far overdue to write a new post. As I explained in April, I am in the middle of a personal rehab/remodel of my back. When last I posted, I was seeing the chiropractor three times a week, gradually increasing the time between adjustments. This week, I 'graduated' to once every four weeks for maintenance.

While my adjustments got fewer and further between, my workouts increased to close to two hours per day, as I am using exercise for my primary pain management, along with my recipe for a chai tea that I based on an ayurvedic recipe for golden milk (turmeric paste in milk- see below). I have found that the tea provides some basic relief, and hubby and I use it as our anti-inflammatory.

***Disclaimer: Nothing that I post should be construed as medical advice; I am not a doctor, and I do not play one on PC. This blog is primarily about my journey in the kitchen, with detours into personal opinion and stories of what's going on in my world (after all, what is a 'blog', but a web log or diary?). Personally, I try to avoid big pharmaceuticals, and I do believe in the medicinal value of herbs and spices. That said, even all-natural herbs CAN have side-effects, and I encourage my readers to research and question everything, whether information comes from your doctor,  your friendly-neighborhood internet blogger, social media or TV. Very rarely does one individual hold all the answers, and even those answers may not be correct for everyone.***

Now that we got that out of the way, I have to say that I have been looking for ways to incorporate turmeric into my diet, and this works nicely, especially in the evening. As always, feel free to modify the recipe; use more milk or less, use a different fat, sweeten (or don't) as you see fit. Also, either keep a spoon handy to stir the spices, chug them at the end, or sip the tea until you get to the paste and discard; we usually swirl a bit of water in any remaining spices and finish them that way. This makes two large mugs (or buckets as we like to call them, LOL), or three cups.

One of our 'buckets' of Golden Chai tea,
with the many spices used in the recipe.

·         8 oz tea (fairly neutral in taste, black, white or oolong would work nicely, I even use Earl Grey)
·         8 oz milk (I recommend the highest quality that you can find, whether that is organic, grass-fed dairy, etc.)
·         8 oz water (you can substitute more milk for a richer cup)
·         ½ tsp turmeric
·         ½ tsp allspice
·         ½ tsp cinnamon
·         ½ tsp ginger
·         ¼ tsp coriander seed powder
·         1/8 tsp clove
·         1/8 tsp nutmeg
·         1/8 tsp cardamom
·         1/8 tsp mace
·         app. 1 (generous) Tbsp of fat (I use butter, but you can substitute any high quality organic oil)

Add the liquids and spices to a pot and place over medium heat. Stir frequently (keep in mind that any wooden spoon or silicone spatula that you use will probably be stained yellow by the turmeric). Cook until the golden yellow of the turmeric becomes more pronounced, add fat and sweeten as desired.

*It should be noted that turmeric is known to have a bitter taste, so if you increase the amount, you may want to do so gradually. Please read up on side effects, and if you are on medication, you may want to check with your pharmacist for possible drug interactions. Just as in the case of reactions to food, be aware or your body's reaction to any herbal supplements that you may try.


Showing on this day in 2011: Blueberry & Yellow Squash Bread