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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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The other day I asked one of my kids what their favorite snack was that I have made for him. He said, to my surprise, cream cheese and olives on pumpernickel sandwich. Yikes! That's not Native! Fortunately, there were other children to ask. My oldest daughter said, "I love your clam cakes and corn fritters." Yes, we are getting there. My younger daughter answered, "wild rice with maple syrup." OK, that was good. I asked the other son and he said, "I love anything that you make!" Flattery will get you my best clam chowder, and a hug. They asked me back what my favorite snack was as a kid. I had to say it was molasses and bread. Kind of a sop arrangement that was an after-school delight.

These things often depend on the season, too. In spring, a bowl of strawberries, or any berries, summer is melon, fall brings apples, but now winter is another matter all together. I must confess that my heart goes out to "dips." My most recent decadent indulgence is honey mustard with raspberries that you dip pretzels into. Oh, goodness, but you must not be piggy. Here we are in the season of visiting and, of course, what is the most popular quick thing to have or to receive? Why, dips and something, of course. Yes, they are often not the healthiest food, but, you can use low and reduced fat substitutes for cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. In an attempt to be healthy, I made a dip for fresh vegetables that has been very well received. Here are a few that are, actually, filled with indigenous ingredients.

Honey-Mustard Dip

1 cup of commercial honey mustard, any

1/2 cup of honey

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon of raspberry jam (optional)

Mix all ingredients together very well in a small bowl. Use a few pretzels to taste and adjust the flavor to your own liking.

Avocado Dip

2 large ripe avocados

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced fresh onion (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt (I use seasoned salt)

1 tablespoon canned chopped chilies

1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro

1 good shot of liquid hot pepper (optional)

Split avocados in half and remove pit. Scoop out the pulp (a grapefruit knife works well) and mash with a fork before adding the lemon juice, onions, salt, chilies, cilantro and pepper sauce. Serve with crisp tortilla chips. This goes well with salsa as an alternate dip.

Jerusalem Artichoke Dip

3 cups cooked and drained Jerusalem artichokes

1 8-ounce package of low-fat cream cheese

3 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

2 or more dashes liquid hot pepper

Use a potato masher to mix in the cream cheese and sour cream in a medium bowl. Season with the rest of the ingredients and serve with crackers, tortilla chips or pita bread wedges.

Raw Vegetable Dip

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

1 small container cottage cheese

1 small container sour cream

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1 packet of beef broth

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 healthy shots of hot liquid pepper

1 teaspoon dried parsley

This dip can be made the day before and kept in fridge until ready for use. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Serve with carrot, celery, or summer squash sticks. Try broccoli florets and cauliflower bits as well.

Delicious Herb Dip

1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise

1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 cup parsley

1 tablespoon grated onion

1 tablespoon minced chive

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chutney (optional)

This is another dip that can be made ahead a day or two. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl and refrigerate. Good dip for raw vegetables.

Refried Bean Dip

1 1-lb. can refried beans

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 or more tablespoons taco sauce

Use a small pan or baking bowl. Stir together all ingredients until well blended. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until heated throughout. Serve warm with crisp tortilla chips.

With people gathering together this time of year, it is always a good idea to keep some kind of snackable food on hand. Even a simple cracker and cheese often hits the spot. Most people have tortilla chips in their pantry. If you are worried about their freshness, put them in the oven for a few minutes, about five minutes at 325 degrees. Crackers, pretzels and potato chips do not need special storage. Neither do crackers.

Notes & Tips

*There are so many kinds of cheese to choose from and they are usually worth a try. Try a soft, a hard and a crumbly type, like feta (goat cheese). Feta is salty and some can be strong. Try a Montrachet. This is a very mild goat cheese.

*My favorite kind of party is when your guests all bring something. It is not only economical, everybody wins. Getting together is what is important.

*Apparently, Bounce, a drier sheet, is capable of many feats in addition to reducing static cling. It has many other uses and I'll give you a couple. It makes ants leave if you put a sheet near them, and it repels mice. Put them around the foundation of trailers and cars that are just sitting, mice won't enter. Some say it repels mosquitoes. Put it through a belt loop when outside during their season. It eliminates static electricity from the TV or computer screen.