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Spinach Dip & Crackers

I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but I never really acknowledged my fondness for spinach dip, even with its presence always made. Whenever I do the grocery shopping, I end up dumping a bottled spinach dip into the cart. When I eat with friends in Italian restaurants like Cibo, it’s always an appetizer. And so far the best I’ve tried is a homemade spinach and artichoke dip made by my best friend’s mom, and I only get to gobble it once a year when my friend celebrates her birthday.

I’ve been messing around the kitchen with fries and chicken and salads and cookies, but it never occured to me to make my own dip until now—a conversation with my friend about artichokes had to do it. Making a dip is easier and faster than watching a stove or oven cook up your preparation, although there are some dips that are also baked.

Below is the recipe I used, with a bit of tweaking depending on the available resources around. I got it off the All Recipes website.

Ingredients

  • 3 bundles of spinach
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 block of grated sandwich cheese (the one that goes with pandesal)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. After washing the spinach, chop off the stems. Pull out the spinach leaves to be used for the dip. Finely chop the leaves.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Gradually mix in the Parmesan and grated cheese. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Throw in finely chopped spinach leaves into the mixture and slowly mix until ingredients are well distributed in the dip.  Chill for a few hours.
  4. Put a few dollops into a small glass or a dip platter. Serve with a handful of chips, bread or crackers.

A few suggestions:

  • Instead of using the regular “pandesal keso”, cheddar cheese would be better to add sharpness.
  • Use real mayonnaise, not the “lite” version. I find real mayo creamier, as opposed to the lighter one that sometimes looks like a blob.

It looked more like sauce than a dip after mixing, because the consistency was not as thick as I expected it to be, but refrigerating it solved the problem. I did a bit of blending to bring out the green, but the color wasn’t as rich as I wanted it, so more spinach leaves might do the trick next time. This is great for parties or if you just want a bite before hitting the sack.

I’m almost never tasked to make dinner, that’s why I always have to let my mom know beforehand if I plan to make a little mess in the kitchen, just like last Sunday.

Parmesan and Pepper Crusted Chicken

What you need: Chicken fillets, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, flour, eggs, and whatever spices you want to mix in

It goes through the usual coating drill: dipping the chicken fillets in flour, beaten eggs and the spiced breading for the crust. In this recipe, the crusting includes the breadcrumbs mixed with grated Parmesan cheese, crushed pepper and whatever McCormick seasonings we got around the cupboard (you know, those small glass bottles with green caps). Really, it’s up to you what spices you decide to put in; that’s all the difference it makes for any breaded meat. Next is frying ‘em, just a few minutes on each side of the crusted fillet ‘til the meat is cooked and the crust—just like any fried crust is supposed to look like—is golden brown. Finally top it with some edible leaves to make it look a bit ooh la la even if it turns out bad. And also so you’d have a reason to exclaim, “voilà!” right after you put the last leaf.

Realization of the day: I seriously need to invest on some cooking and baking materials. I’ve already got a mental list of kitchen tools that would make my cooking endeavors easier, and all of which I plan to have soon as my property: mortar and pestle, electric mixer, pizza cutter, pepper crusher, and a mezzaluna (it’s a knife with a curved blade and handles on both ends) which I’ve always coveted ever since I saw Nigella using it. Our pepper crusher was broken, so I grounded the whole round black peppers the archaic way—no, not even with a mortar and pestle, but with a mug and a chopping board, which I’d rather not elaborate on. In the meantime, it works!

Late-night cravings—or any sudden cravings for that matter—are the most agonizing, especially when you know you can’t have them in the next few hours from the moment they stimulated your hypothalamus. If it happens after midnight at home, you sleep; no delivery and transportation, you wait the next day; not available; you imagine. That’s when I decided I should learn to make them on my own.
It wasn’t easy convincing my mom and grandma to let me cook. No dear, just go on and play with your cooking set, go make us some soup. Ooh, so exciting. I can make soup without using any water. Eventually, I reached the age when they’ve accepted the fact that I will have to know how to operate real kitchen appliances.
My first time was with potatoes. I’d make anything I can with that one root crop I will always find in the veggie compartment of the refrigerator. I had to make do with what was available, you see; hence, mashed potatoes, french fries and mojos. After my first taste of cooking, definitely I had to make something else aside from patata craziness. Wait…what’s this? The cupboard under the gas stove is an oven?! Yowza! Certainly used less than five times, dormant for more than a decade and being used as a storage place, I decided to bring it back to life.
From baking cookies, dessert pies, mac and cheese, and thin-crust pizzas to cooking steak, chicken crispers (Chili’s inspired and school canteen motivated), japanese potato salad, and pasta dishes, it’s been a good journey. Now that I think about it, I should have taken more photos of my past creations—better than enumerating them now—but when you’re the cook, it’s just too hard not to take bites here and there even before everything’s done. Say hello to my most recent creation:

New York Cheesecake

Would you look at that. The contrast of textures from the dense, creamy, smooth, and cheesy(need I emphasize more) cake as you dig your fork down to the sweet and buttery graham crust(I know, I must sound smug right now and it’s probably not the most appealing cheesecake you’ve seen, but how can I not be proud for making something usually bought per slice, while I have a whole pan in front of me?). Sure enough, my cheesecake had its share of surface bubbles and tiny cracks, but does it matter when the piece is in your mouth and has touched your taste buds?
It only takes a visit to All Recipes and you’ve got what you need for your trip. Cooking, baking and eating is like traveling when you get a taste of other cultures through food. When you’ve got the right recipe, ingredients and enough passion to prepare it, there’s no better way to experience food than to make it.