Stir Fried Greens with Crispy, Spicy Rice Noodles

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We recently returned from 10 glorious, 87 degree days in Miami to the brutally stark contrast of 7” of snow and no food in the house. My immediate thought was of course our serious food shortage situation. So before more snow fell I needed to get to the grocery store and stock up. My second thought was to ensure that I stocked up on greens. And that is all due to our eating patterns during this last trip. Normally when we are in Miami we eat fairly lean. Lots of salads, fresh cut fruit and lighter fare. But this trip was indulgence, and more. More of everything and anything, including sun. So my NY shop was going to be all about getting back us back on track. I filled my cart with lots of produce to make soups and sautéd veggies. And I was on a good track except that as I was looking for true buckwheat noodles, meaning no wheat, just buckwheat a lady placed a package of rice noodles back on the shelf. What else could I do but grab them? Now with my shopping cart busting, and some noodles to make me smile, I went home. (Notice that I didn’t have a third thought of how cold it was. I was betting on the “let’s not focus on the mound of snow” attitude.)

First, I made two different soups which we slurped up for 2 days. But I really didn’t feel like slurping anymore and needed to chew on something, and not just drink my meals. As I stared down at all those greens stir fry was the immediate light bulb. And even though there was snow on the ground, I ventured out to the shed to get our plancha* as thoughts of stir fried noodles and veggies floated in my head and made my tummy gurgle.

*plancha = flat metal grilling surface or pan

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Serious commitment to cooking.

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Serious commitment to cooking.

I was fully aware that I was getting a jump start on dinner by cooking at 11am. So I resigned to the idea of eating this dish for lunchtime and making enough to share with ‘others’ (my hubby and sister) so they could enjoy at dinner time.

Here’s what I pulled out of the fridge.

A bounty of greens

A bounty of greens

Scallions, Cilantro, Swiss Chard, Carrot, Onion, Baby Kale, Baby Bok Choy.

First things first. You should know the drill by now. MISE EN PLACE, people. Cut it all up and ready it for stir frying. I grabbed just handful of each. This is stir fry so you can add as much of each as you like. Amounts are of no consequence here. Let me say that again. Amounts DO NOT matter. Use what you like or what you have.

Now that is a beautiful board full of chopped up veggies.

Now that is a beautiful board full of chopped up veggies.

Look at the vibrancy of that chard!

Look at the vibrancy of that chard!

I’m not usually a big fan of bok choy, but this fresh and tender and tossed with noodles, that’s another story.

I’m not usually a big fan of bok choy, but this fresh and tender and tossed with noodles, that’s another story.

Before I tackled stir frying the veggies, I cooked my rice noodles and set them aside. Then on my plancha, I added olive oil and two veggies at a time. I cooked each one separately to keep their integrity. Plus I wanted this dish to have the same feel and eating style as you often see in a big bowl of Asian soup. You know the kinds where all the toppings are sectioned off on the top of the soup and you stir them in as you wish.

I gathered my mise en place board of nutrients, and readied them up next to the plancha for easy grabbing. I only seasoned the veggies with salt, pepper and drizzle of sesame oil as each one cooked, then plated them onto a large platter before enhancing the noodles that were standing by.

The real seasonings was going on the noodles.

The rice noodles I just had to grab. I love me some noodles.

The rice noodles I just had to grab. I love me some noodles.

It fits perfectly over two burners. I love this plancha.

It fits perfectly over two burners. I love this plancha.

Bok Choy and onions getting stirred with love.

Bok Choy and onions getting stirred with love.

A good shot of vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin B

A good shot of vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin B

Once everything was stirred with love I got a slurry of spiced sauces ready. In a cup I mixed a tablespoon of red curry paste, a heaping tablespoon of Thai chili paste, half tablespoon of chili oil and 1/2 cup of olive oil, and a tad of sesame oil. I didn’t actually use all of it. You can use as much or as little heat as you desire.

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Having left the scallions on the plancha, I dumped my cooked rice noodles onto the grill and drizzled the slurry on top, then let it cook away until some parts got crispy. I added in the cilantro, then I cut some more and added it to the top.

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Done and done. I couldn’t stop eating this. I think I ate too much. So much for eating light again. Sure there were greens, but in order to truly accomplish the lean eating I would have needed to swap the noodle to veggie ratio a bit. Something I recommend you do if you don’t want to rice noodle your way into a carb coma… like I pleasantly did. What can I say, I love noodles.

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How To Set a Brunch Buffet Table & Napkin Pockets

Organization is my thing. I love being prepared, having everything ready to go, having lists and knowing what needs to get done. There’s is nothing more satisfying than checking items off the list and a sense of reaching the finish line. It’s actually a big joke ‘round these parts - “Dana, what’s next on the list?” Laugh all you want, I can take it, but rest assured I will never leave something undone or left at the back of the refrigerator… unless I choose. So, no shocker that pre-thinking the table and platters is part of my to do list. Having a plan of attack makes any job easier. And it’s no different when entertaining. All the same rules apply.

Of course, you’ve read previous posts spouting the importance of pre-pro (that’s short in the TV world for pre-production) in the food prep area, or in culinary terms mise en place. Certainly having all your food prepped is vital but it’s equally important for setting up the final table, all the platters and serving utensils. Decades ago when I entertained, I had one set of dishes and very few serving items. So it was a tad simpler. Now that I have more of everything, I have more options which can be overwhelming. But even if you only have a few items from which to choose, you still need to make those work for you in the best ways possible. That’s why envisioning the entire event can actually shave time and energy in the long run. Ask yourself, what should the table look like and what platters or bowls should be used to make the day of party flow easier? Putting some thought to this prior to is one less task that needs to get done right before guests arrive.

I thought I would share with you a carefree table setting, the platter choices and arrangement that I did for a recent brunch. As a matter of fact, that gathering was originally slated for a Saturday evening but we needed to reschedule. Our new date landed us on a Sunday midday; perfect for brunch.

The Table
No formal table setting for this brunch. Nor a fully covered table. It’s well documented that I love putting a table cloth down, but for this sunny, brunch buffet that felt too stuffy. Whimsy was my main goal. So, I used a small square light blue tablecloth and placed it with the end points on the center of the table, leaving the ends of the table exposed.

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Then for movement and visual interest, I tossed a swath of white sheer material down the length of the table. Thus creating the exact vibe I intended. Both haphazard yet purposeful, it softened the whole table. It actually drew the eye to center of the table. Now I had a landing strip for the food platters.

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Florals
With the variety of food I had planned, I knew there would be a lot of platters occupying space, so I opted for a very simple and small floral arrangement. Using only filler florals that I found at Trader Joe’s, I arranged the three different florals in a color blocking, circular manner to create a bright, burst of life. Total of $9. I placed in the center, and knew that the colors would be the inspiration for for the platter choices.

Bold, bright, contrasting and complimentary colors.

Bold, bright, contrasting and complimentary colors.

Napkins/Utensils/Dishes
There are so many ways to go when arranging napkins and utensils. For more ideas, check out my post Napkin Folding - 5 Basic Folds - Countless Options. Originally I was going to use a simple roll up technique but after letting my mind float about what would make sense for the event I came up with something very different. Since this was going to be a small gathering, just 6 in total, I still wanted the silverware/napkin set up to be an easy grab. Here’s the thinking…

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I grabbed simple rustic, cotton cloth for napkins for an relaxed Sunday vibe. In my drawer of tricks I found 6 lengths of ties, 3 different colors that all coordinated and played nicely with the overall color theme. Can you identify what these ‘strings’ are from?

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If you guessed the handles from clothing shopping bags you would have been correct. 3 different bags, 2 ties each of harmonious colors. For all those who say, don’t save stuff, I say BooHoo to that. These were perfect in every way. There is an art to seeing the usefulness of an item that you would normally toss away.

I decided to create napkin pockets by stacking a knife, fork and spoon together. The equivalent to a 3 way spooning situation. Then I placed them in the center of the folded napkin and gathered up the material around it like a flower petal.

Using the string, I tied them together about 3/4 ways up to create a flower like pocket.

Next… how to corral them. I remembered I still had a basket with leftover pinecones in it. Perfect for an organic feel.

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I kept the pinecones stacked on one side and lined the napkin ‘florals’ in the basket placing it next to a stack of white dinner plates for a grab and go station.

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Serving Platters
This is really where the menu plan meets the serving plan. Think about your menu. Think of the amounts of each item you plan to serve, then pull some platters and see what works and looks good together. Once I have a good sense, I then place them in the position on the table to review the flow.

Wanting to bring color and pizzaz to the table, I pulled out my most colorful, playful platters. The round fish plate would be for salmon burgers, the blue fish bowl for the relish, the long rectangular for the mini buns and purple cake stand for the traditional Spanish tortilla.

Wanting to bring color and pizzaz to the table, I pulled out my most colorful, playful platters. The round fish plate would be for salmon burgers, the blue fish bowl for the relish, the long rectangular for the mini buns and purple cake stand for the traditional Spanish tortilla.

Create Stations
I like culling food items that go together in a ‘station’. This is accomplished simply by huddling them on a board, tray or platter and use smaller bowls within. Given that I had a few offerings for the guests to create their own yogurt parfait, a yogurt ‘station’ was a must. I chose a small wooden board for a rustic feel, then to invite color and whimsy, I chose two different bowls in the similar color scheme. One for yogurt and one for granola. Instead of cereal bowls, I stacked glass, stemless martini glasses for yogurt parfaits. Toss some fruit around and you now have a Yogurt/Granola Station.

Whole Table
Place all the platters, boards around the table to make sure there is good flow and visual interest. Move them around until it feels right to you. I kept most of the platters toward the center leaving room if our guests wanted to sit at the table to eat. We all opted to pile our plates and eat by the fireplace in the living room.

Sure it’s lots of color, and different styles but the blues and hues unite them.

Sure it’s lots of color, and different styles but the blues and hues unite them.

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The end result should be an inviting burst of tantalizing offerings that entice your guests to continue wandering around the table to pick and nibble away.

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Bruce and Maryann eyeing the offerings and creating a sumptuous plate of good bites.

Bruce and Maryann eyeing the offerings and creating a sumptuous plate of good bites.

Our guests did just that. Hopefully, this inspired you to create your own buffet table scape. I guarantee that having all the platters and the table pre-set will be a blessing not a chore.

Side note: I didn’t mention beverage station, but we always have one. If you look over MaryAnne’s right shoulder in the photo above you get a glimpse of the sparkle of glassware. We have a credenza that we use to house all the glassware and beverages as a self serve station. If you don’t have a credenza, add a small folding table, or carve out some space on your main buffet table. The idea is to have all the beverage items together to make it easy for your guests to serve themselves.

It’s springtime folks, Brunch is served!

 
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A Pork Full Sandwich & More

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You may remember way, way back I wrote about our travels to Chile and the biggest, sloppiest, oddest pork sandwich we encountered, Germany in Chile - A Super(bowl) Pork Sandwich. Thanks to the advice of the dearly missed, uber-talent of Anthony Bourdain, JuanCarlos and I visited one of his restaurant recommendations. The draw to the unusual German spot was a pork sandwich called the ‘lomito’; for what Tony described as a ‘towering monument all its own’ and delicious. And it was. (To watch the episode, and you should, visit Anthony Bourdain No Reservations. I miss him and his thoughtful insights into cultures around the world. A moment of pause for his passing.)

The sandwich was not just good because we were tired, starving and practically had lost hope on finding a place to eat. It was good because it was filled with individually good foods that seemingly didn’t go together, but somehow worked.

I promised way back then that I would try to recreate it. It may have taken awhile, but JC and I finally did. Mind you, this was not exactly that sandwich but it was our homage to the lomito. Nothing truly can ever be the original experience. But according to our guests, ours was delicious.

First you have to make the pork. Or you can buy cooked pork from a specialty market. You can go two different avenues - the pulled pork kind or roast pork slices. Here is what we did with JuanCarlos leading the charge on the pork as I captured his messy hands along the way. If you make your own pork, bare in mind that you have to start a day (or 2 depending on what time you need to serve it) ahead of time because once the pork is marinated it needs rest in the fridge for several hours or overnight, plus the cook time of an additional 7 hours. So, this is not one of those “let’s make pork” tonight recipes.

The spice rub line up.

The spice rub line up.

The pork shoulder. Definitely a piece of meat you can lean on.

The pork shoulder. Definitely a piece of meat you can lean on.

Ingredients

We used Ree Drummond Pork Recipe as a guide, but added a few of our own ingredients. Below were the amounts we used. Follow the linked recipe for cooking. JC made two modifications. He didn’t refrigerate overnight, and he cooked the pork for only 6 hours. This gave us pork slices instead of shreds but I would be careful doing it this way as it is easy to run the risk of the pork not being tender. If you are experienced with cooking pork shoulder, go ahead. If not, I would recommend cooking it according to the Ree’s recipe to get the pull of the pork. Also, we did not use BBQ sauce. We only used the luscious juices that it produced along with the onions.

For the Pork Roast

1 Pork Shoulder roast
1 t Cayenne
1 T Chili Pepper
1 t Cumin
2 T Anise Seeds
1 T Paprika
Bay Leaves
1/3 c Garlic
1/2 c Sugar in the Raw
1 heaping T salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
4 onions, cut into halves

 

For the Sandwich Fixings

Spicy Slaw
Guacamole (store bought)
Mayo or Yogurt Lemon Sauce
Sautéed Peppers & Onions
Buns

We used fresh garlic.

We used fresh garlic.

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After you have all the ingredients mixed together, lovingly rub the mixture ALL over (front and back) the pork. Then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Rub-a-dub-dub, Rub it with love.

Rub-a-dub-dub, Rub it with love.

Then place the pork in a large roasting pan on a bed of the onion halves and cook in a 300 degrees F. Roast until fork-tender and falling apart, about 7 hours. Remove the pork from the pot and set it on a cutting board. Slice some of the onion.

While you are waiting for the pork to cook, move on to making all the fillings. I decided that instead of the limp string beans, I would make a slaw. I used my Spicy Crunch Slaw recipe which I knew both the crunch and spice would work well with the pork. I bought guacamole because frankly I had way too many other things to make, and a good store bought one can be delicious. I made caramelized peppers and onions, and created my own type of ‘mayo’. I used half mayo, half greek yogurt with lemon juice to thin it a bit, salt and pepper, but you can use mayo if that’s your groove. Once I gathered all the ingredients, all that was left to do was to pile them onto a soft bun.

Everyone was ready and waiting to be piled on.

Everyone was ready and waiting to be piled on.

Guac first

Guac first

Start piling on the flavors. I think the slaw works nicely with the guacamole.

Start piling on the flavors. I think the slaw works nicely with the guacamole.

Pork and onions.

Pork and onions.

Creamy and tangy mixture of mayo, yogurt, salt and pepper.

Creamy and tangy mixture of mayo, yogurt, salt and pepper.

Sautéed peppers & onions.Simply slice them thin and slowly sauté them in oil and butter until they are soft and caramelized. Salt/pepper, too.

Sautéed peppers & onions.Simply slice them thin and slowly sauté them in oil and butter until they are soft and caramelized. Salt/pepper, too.

A platter full of pork with luscious juices and soft, flavorful onions.

A platter full of pork with luscious juices and soft, flavorful onions.

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Funny enough, my original blog post suggested that this was a Super(bowl) of a sandwich and I posted right before SuperBowl Sunday thinking you might serve it for the big game. And now, I am posting my recreation again right before the SuperBowl. So, now you can serve up this ‘towering monument’ of pork to your cheering fans. You may also want to include a charcuterie/cheese platter, as I did. A few other ideas for game day; maybe make my 3 Dips or my Tapenesto. Great choices for a crowd. No matter what you serve, you are a winner in my book.

 

Dana's Nuts - Granola and Spiced & Candied Nut Offering

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Well, haven’t we all thought that at one time or another. This time it is true. I’m nuts. Nuts for sharing good things. Nuts for sharing the love. And one that will take you from morning to night time snacking.

Although, the sharing part is a bit ironic since this period marks the first time that I haven’t posted on a weekly basis. It actually felt odd and sad and weird, like something was missing in my life. The lack of posts were not because I haven’t been making a mess in the kitchen and inventing. Exactly the opposite. I have been cooking up things to offer you. A different type of offering. Instead of providing recipes that you may not have a chance to make, I will provide the actual result of the recipe. How’s that for an offering? I realize that some of you enjoy homemade but just don’t have the time for homemade. You appreciate the quality and taste of small batch food made with love but just aren’t always able to do that for yourself. I totally get it. So, I’ve launched an idea that people have been suggesting, asking, begging for for years - offering some of my baked goods for sale. (Of course, some of you have also urged me to open a restaurant. Now, I’m willing to tackle some suggestions… Others, not so much, but thanks for the vote of confidence.)

I have been giving baked goods as gifts for quite a while now, and each time I’ve heard, “I wish you would sell these. I would buy them.” So, I pinch my nose and take the deep plunge, starting small with ideas for growth. I’m keeping things simple just to get the ball rolling. My first offerings are my Crunchin’ Coconut Granola and Dana’s Nuts - Spicy & Candied.

My granola is made with oats, coconut, pepitas and sunflower seeds, oil and honey. Pure and simple. Baked to crunchy toasted perfection.

Crunchy goodness.

Crunchy goodness.

Once you get your bag home, place it in an airtight jar to keep it fresh.

Once you get your bag home, place it in an airtight jar to keep it fresh.

Since I know some of you eat granola regularly, my goal is to offer it on a monthly subscription basis, too. This way you are assured to get your granola every month, just in time to top off your morning yogurt, or evening ice cream. So, I welcome the comments to see if this is a service you would enjoy signing up for. The monthly cost of the granola would naturally be discounted from a single purchase. For now, single purchase is what I can offer, but with your feedback, subscription granola could be on the future horizon.

Enjoy it with yogurt, or milk. Or eat it like my husband does - with a spoon right out of the jar.

Enjoy it with yogurt, or milk. Or eat it like my husband does - with a spoon right out of the jar.

My Spiced & Candied Nuts are a mix of walnuts, cashews and peanuts baked with a spice mix and maple syrup. These nuts are the perfect blend of heat and sweet that keeps your hand grabbing for more. Ideal for a cocktail party or just as a snack. (There will be other nut mixes in the future.)

What goes better with a drink then a handful of nuts?

What goes better with a drink then a handful of nuts?

Ideal for a snack or a cocktail party.

Ideal for a snack or a cocktail party.

I hope you enjoy these treats. As always, I look forward to sharing with you in best way I know how, stirring life with goodness and love.

Please visit the SHOP page for more details. Happy Crunching.

Shop Granola
Shop Nuts

 
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3 Dips a Dipping...

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Life with an obsessive buyer.

Well, I guess that’s the view from hubby, JuanCarlos’, seats. I buy things; be it material scraps, vintage dishes, glassware, and even food ingredients with big ideas. Sometimes with no specific ideas at all, I just love how they look and I’ll figure it out later. Maybe that is what I should have called this blog. Buy it Now - Figure it Out Later.

In the looking good category, I’m often tempted by the olive bar at specialty stores. Or the condiment and cheese aisles. Who wouldn’t? They are stocked with alluring foods. So, it’s no wonder that when you open my fridge you will encounter jars and containers of what JC likes to call stragglers. Annoying stragglers, to be exact. We differ greatly in our view points. I love having these food items around because they come in handy in a pinch. On the flip side, my husband finds these types of jars, containers and “dangling participles’ quite annoying. The main reason: he doesn’t have much use for these ingredients, hence the questioning as to why we need so many of them. Which often leads to him needing to shift, maneuver around and rejigger them in the fridge. Of course, I see the absolute need for these, but I’m willing to consider his point of view; me as condiment hoarder for the ‘just in case’ moment.

In an effort to keep the peace around the holidays (at least that is what I’m telling him), I decided to make him happy and clean the fridge from condiment craze. Yet, we all know the real reason. I’m a serial something from nothing, experimentalist. I can’t help myself from looking at ingredients and seeing what they could be. And what perfect timing, as we look down the barrel of the final few holiday parties and gatherings left in the year, a trio of dips comes in handy. Dips are not just useful for dipping, but great to spread on sandwiches, or on the base of pizza or stuffed breads, dollop on a salad or tacos, or dang near anything else you can think of.

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Here are 3 dips for dipping. Or spreading or whatever you want to name them, for use in whatever way you choose.


Avocado & Sour Cream Dip

Ingredients
1/2 c avocado, cubed
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 c scallions + 1 T for topping
1 garlic clove, rough chop
1 T parsley
1 t lemon juice
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

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Instructions
In a mini blender, buzz up the parsley, scallions and garlic first. Then add the avocado and sour cream. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Buzz again and taste for seasoning. Easy, breezy.

Chop up the scallions and garlic first. It helps to blend them up better.

Chop up the scallions and garlic first. It helps to blend them up better.

Chunks of avocado give it a creaminess.

Chunks of avocado give it a creaminess.

Fresh parsley and lemon give this dip a zip.

Fresh parsley and lemon give this dip a zip.

Avocado & Sour Cream dip. Creamy and tangy.

Avocado & Sour Cream dip. Creamy and tangy.

Roasted Pepper & Goat Cheese Dip

Ingredients
1/2 c marinated roasted red peppers
2/3 c goat cheese
1/4 c walnuts, roasted

Instructions
Roast the walnuts for 8-10 minutes in the oven or in a saucepan on the stove. Then using a mini blender, buzz up them up into small pieces. Remove from blender, then add the peppers and goat cheese and blend until you have a chunky consistency. Add the walnuts back in, and blend only until full combined, or you can simply stir them in. Taste for seasoning. Since I bought the marinated roasted peppers there was no need to add any additional seasonings.

Goat cheese makes it creamy and tangy. Peppers makes it sweet.

Goat cheese makes it creamy and tangy. Peppers makes it sweet.

Walnuts give a crunch. A wonderful combination.

Walnuts give a crunch. A wonderful combination.

Gorgeous bright color, full of tang, sweet and crunch.

Gorgeous bright color, full of tang, sweet and crunch.

Olive & Feta Cheese Dip

Ingredients
1/2 c oil cured black olives
1/2 c green olives
1/2 c feta cheese
1/4 c scallions, rough chop
1 garlic clove, rough chop
1/2 c parsley leaves
1/4 c olive oil
1 t lemon juice

The set up for something special.

The set up for something special.

Instructions
In a mini blender, buzz up the parsley, garlic and scallions. Add the black and green olives and buzz until it creates a paste. Add olive oil and lemon juice and blend until combined. Then add the feta cheese. Since the olives and feta have enough flavor and salt content, this dip should not require any additional seasoning. But always taste to see if you need more lemon juice or oil.

Toss the scallions, garlic and parsley in.

Toss the scallions, garlic and parsley in.

Buzz it up until coarsely chopped.

Buzz it up until coarsely chopped.

Add the olives. Then the oil, lemon juice and feta.

Add the olives. Then the oil, lemon juice and feta.

Olive tapenade with feta is a hearty dip, perfect with boiled potatoes for dipping.

Olive tapenade with feta is a hearty dip, perfect with boiled potatoes for dipping.

Bright, crunchy and super green string beans are a fresh and delightful addition to this platter.

Bright, crunchy and super green string beans are a fresh and delightful addition to this platter.

New and fingerling potatoes are the perfect size and consistency for dipping. They also make for a hearty bite.

New and fingerling potatoes are the perfect size and consistency for dipping. They also make for a hearty bite.

Did you see how easy it was to whip up not one but three dips? These were just one of those days when pulling ingredients out and seeing what works together creates ramekins full of goodness.

In my defense of stocking our fridge with these awesome ingredients, we had one of those ‘just in case’ moments when we needed to bring appetizers to a party. Perfect timing, I’d say, as I just finished making these dips and they were picture ready for the party. Pure evidence that having dangling participles in your fridge isn’t a luxury or a nuance but an absolute necessity. I feel redeemed and justified in my condiment collecting craze.

A colorful medley.

A colorful medley.

Fresh and inviting. So, go ahead and invite someone over. Pop some bubbly and dip away.

Fresh and inviting. So, go ahead and invite someone over. Pop some bubbly and dip away.

Post Note: While I was in North Carolina visiting my nieces, my youngest niece made all 3 of these dips for us to snack on. Then we brought the leftovers to my oldest nieces newly purchased townhouse, which we helped her moved into. These dips were the perfect snack as we unpacked, unwrapped and set up her new abode. Everyone loved them. I guess these 3 dips a dipping are even more handy that I originally thought.!