Chips & Dip – For Dinner?

Chips & Dip – For Dinner?

better than bought dipChips and dips night was one of the absolute favorite meals of my childhood.  Looking back now, I know my mother did it because she couldn’t stand to think about feeding her horde of hungry people yet again, but at the time, with the self centered worldview of which kids are masters, I just thought she wanted us to be happy. Maybe she was making up for the meals that had included water chestnuts or brussels sprouts or *shudder* canned green beans.  Now, this was the seventies and even though my mother was an artist and craftswoman around food, she wasn’t particularly fussy about processed things and packaged goods. That means the table was spread with Helluva Good onion dip, weird cheese spreads, Sociables and Chicken in a Biscuit (chicken! in a biscuit!). For better or for worse, I am fussy about these things, so when we embrace chips and dips night, it looks a little different.  Thirty-five year old me would never let anyone near those things. Eyeing 50 me still doesn’t dig them but doesn’t have apoplexy if a kid has some here and there. Still, serving for them for dinner is a bridge too far for us (no judging, YMMV), so we make some adjustments. One that the whole family loves is our homemade dip. It’s easy, delicious, we know exactly what is in it and honestly, my kids prefer it to store bought. Here is our basic recipe, but it is infinitely customizable.

Better Than Bought Dip

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper


Mix all ingredients.  Adjust to taste. Dip things in it. Easy.


Flowers & Tarragon

Flowers & Tarragon

flowers and tarragonAre flowers ever more welcome than when they come from a friend’s lovingly tended garden?  Even better when they are coaxed by her through scissors placed encouragingly into the hands of your twin sons.  These in this picture were chosen and cut with enthusiastic interest and the confidence that comes from being told you can.  “She is very kind”, one boy said as we drove home, the other boy guarding preciously the jar of water and flora. And he is right – she is kind, and we are lucky.

This was a visit to a former personal chef client.  She is a gardener extraordinaire and we were dropping a nectarine tarragon cake to her on a Saturday morning.  The week previous she dropped us bunches of anise-y tarragon, as well as thyme and garlic scapes (eaten happily by the perceptive guy mentioned above), so I have been working all my creativity to use them.  As mentioned, she is a talented gardener, so the bounty is large, often larger than can be easily used. But I am lucky enough to receive these so I work hard to honor the gift and use them up. I admit, sometimes I fail and don’t get to them all before they turn, but often I am able to use them in both new and expected ways.  Thus, tarragon cake. Don’t underestimate the appropriateness of herbs in sweets. They may seem incongruent but that is exactly what makes them such a special addition, especially if paired with citrus or stone fruits, I find. I recommend you give this a try, and, if you know one, share it with a gardener.

Stone Fruit Tarragon Cake with Lemon Glaze


  • ½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3-4 stone fruit of choice, one or a mixture (nectarines, peaches, plums, apricots), sliced
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar



Heat oven to 350 degrees. Use butter to grease either a 9 inch round or 9 inch square cake pan.  Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until butter has turned pale and the mixture looks a bit whipped.  Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just incorporated. Mix in the milk.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and nestle the cut fruit on top. Place in the oven and bake for 40ish minutes, until firm and lightly browned.  While it bakes, mix the lemon juice and powdered sugar to form the glaze, adding more lemon juice (or milk, if the lemon is dry) or powdered sugar as necessary to get a good drizzling consistency.  When the cake is cooled, drizzle the glaze on top in any decorative pattern.


When There Is Not Much To Say, There Is Comfort Food

When There Is Not Much To Say, There Is Comfort Food

I was first introduced to the magic of the simple radish/butter/salt sandwich on one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows and my kids and I have been hooked ever since. I am trying to enjoy it this eve and think about being a good listener, appreciating cultures and how food reveals them to us, and walking through the world with open eyes and heart. Thank you, Mr. Bourdain, for showing us that having sharp edges goes along just fine with big love, and being curious is tasty.


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