Friday, February 3, 2012

Dipping into Dips

by Sheila Connolly

I hear there's a football game this weekend. (Since I live about thirty miles from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, it would be hard not to know.)  For those of us watching on the East Coast, the Big Game falls at the dinner hour, and I'm pretty sure nobody in my house will be cooking.  Ordering a pizza, maybe.

So we need munchies.  Wendy started the trend yesterday, so I'll roll with it.  Not being a dip (not to be confused with dippy) person myself, I went back to my multi-generation trove of dip recipes—and I can't say I was impressed.  In my family, pre-dinner munchies were actually kind of healthy:  mostly olives, carrot and celery sticks, maybe some nuts, that kind of thing.  I dimly recall that there were cocktail parties, which must have meant hors d'oeuvres, but not so often at our house.  Then in her later years my mother and her second husband got really involved with bridge (like three times a week), and the bridge ladies started competing with food, and a whole new crop of recipes crept into my mother's file.

But still . . . some of these I don't want to make, or even eat.  For example:

--From my Swedish step-grandmother:  Cheese Balls (knead--she wrote "kneed"—together Bisquick, grated cheese and sausage, roll into balls, then bake.  I'm not convinced.

--From a friend of my mother's:  Liver Paté Ball (liverwurst, onion, mustard and horseradish, all rolled into a ball).  Ugh—I'm not a fan of liverwurst, much less large blobs of it.

--From my mother:  Caviar Mold (gelatin, lemon juice, onion, mayo, Tabasco, grated hard-boiled eggs, and lumpfish caviar, all squished into a mold).  Uh, no?

--From my sister:  Shrimp Dip.  Actually I might consider this one, maybe (canned baby shrimp, mayo, small-curd cottage cheese, horseradish, and a package of (dried) ranch salad dressing).

--From my mother again:  Smoked Salmon Paté.  Canned salmon, cream cheese, liquid smoke . . . say what?  Not in my pantry!

--Ditto:  Egg and Artichoke Dip.  Possible, but a bit close to Wendy's recipe.

--and finally, my mother's classic Spinach Dip!  Something I've eaten, and would eat again!

Spinach Dip

1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 onion, chopped
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 envelope vegetable soup mix (or onion soup mix)

Make sure the spinach is well drained (squeezing it helps). Mix all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until fairly smooth.  If you're using a food processor, it's easiest if you put in the onion and water chestnuts and chop them a bit before adding the rest.

Be sure to taste it to see if it needs a bit of seasoning, because you don't know how salty your soup mix might be.  Refrigerate until ready to serve (often served in a hollowed bread loaf), with crackers.

You can use fat-free sour cream and a lower-calorie version of mayonnaise, if you want to keep the fat and the calories down. Love the water chestnuts, though—gives it some texture.

If you really want those other recipes, let me know and I'll send them to you.

Go Patriots! (After all, they've got a Connolly playing!)


  1. Love that Bread ball presentation and...

    Go Chiefs (sigh)
    Go Bears (sigh)
    Go Packers (sigh)
    Go Saints (sigh)

    Go Pats... My favorite team!

  2. One of my faves! For some reason, we always had spinach dip with that Hawaiian bread they sell in the deli sections of grocery stores (the stuff that's a little sweet). Yum!!

  3. I love that spinach dip, Sheila. But don't turn your nose up at those sausage balls--they are delicious as I remember!

  4. Water chestnuts in spinach dip! Never would have thought of that.

    BTW, a friend of my mother's used to make a variation of the caviar and hard-boiled egg recipe. I don't think there was any gelatin in hers, but it was delicious!

    ~ Krista

  5. Lucy, do I have to knee the sausage-cheese balls? (Ooh, that sounds a bit risque.) The recipe claims to make 200, but you can freeze them and pop a few into the oven when you want some, which could be handy.

    This dip, according to my mother's notes, will serve 8. Really? Do we know people who will consume a nearly a cup of spinach dip in one sitting? I assume it's part of an assortment of snacks.

  6. Okay, had to share this one -- a massive pizza order from Umberto's was given a police escort to La Guardia Airport. Yes, the Giants are so superstitious about eating that particular pizza after their practice that they had the pies flown to Indy. I don't know if it will help, but it's hilarious to see how relevant food continues to be for Super Bowl Sunday.

    Sweet dip recipe - and agreed on those water chestnuts. I throw them into casseroles for a crunchy texture (got the idea from, of all things, a HoneyBaked Ham dinner gift). Works very well and I love the idea of using it in a snack dip, too.

    Have a great game day, Sheila, and good luck to the Patriots and the Giants. No matter what happens, both teams will enter and leave the arena as champs.

    ~ Cleo

  7. Sheila...will all due respect, don't knock the smoked salmon dip!! It is wonderful, really. When we are fortunate to have some fresh Lake Michigan smoke white fish we make it with that but I have relied on the smoked salmon dip plenty of times!! THe addition of finely minced scallion and a wee bit of sour cream to cut the "thickness"...

    All that being said I have printed your spinach dip recipe and as always will add the water chestnuts for that special crunch!!


  8. Lucy's right - the sausage balls are good! I'm even thinking of making them tomorrow. I put onion and celery in them too. I think my recipe is from Jimmy Dean Sausage.

    The Knorr spinach dip was very popular in the late '80s and early '90s - it was everywhere! Like Wendy, I always saw it in Hawaiian bread.

    I agree completely with your assessments of the other recipes. They may be good and even pretty once made, but written down - ? - no, thank-you.

    Your mom's caviar mold reminded me - I have old cookbooks and I've noticed that gelatin, hard-boiled eggs, and green olives were used an awful lot in the '40s and '50s. We have more things available now, I know. But still, those ingredients were in heavy rotation, weren't they? Gelatin molds here, there, and everywhere.