A Little Goes a Long Way

Time for a little something.
- A. A. Milne

We are a family of snackers. The most innocent of family gatherings (think impromptu decisions to meet up before a movie or a lazy boat ride down the lake) turn into verifiable smorgasboards of spreads, dips, canapes and small bites.

I've never entered my mother's home without seeing the edge of her countertop fully obstructed with bowls of peanut butter-stuffed pretzels, a spicy cajun cheese spread next to a basket of crackers, and containers of her husband's famous olive salsa & tortilla chips. Likewise, I'm inclined to keep a constant rotation of dishes coming out of our kitchen whenever we have guests (and often even when we don't). There's just something about the ability to grab a handful of roasted cashews drizzled in maple syrup and tossed with chili powder, or to dunk a chip into a creamy and spicy dip, that allows for a more casual feel and in turn, more relaxing conversation and vibe.

Weekends are the prime time for snacking - especially during football season, when it's acceptable to spend 5-hour stretches on the couch flipping between games. I'm hard-pressed to find something I enjoy greater than puttering around the kitchen, constructing plate after plate of small bites with whatever we have on hand. Like this past Sunday, for example....

We somehow still had chili left over, so I filled tortilla scoops with a spoonful, then topped them with shredded Monterey Jack cheese, a morsel of salsa, a bit of sour cream and some Romaine lettuce. Spicy, creamy, warm, crunchy, and cool - all in one tiny bite.

I also had leftover pork tenderloin and cranberry-pear-mint chutney, so I spread some herb cheese on bagel chips and topped them with thin slices of the pork and a dollop of the chutney. It was a great combination - crunchy chips, creamy cheese underneath the slightly salty pork and the sweet chutney.

We love fried pickles. If you've never had them, and you're reading this right now thinking that Southerners are crazy, I urge you to try them. The unmistakable salty flavor of dill, encased in a crispy spicy batter with cool Ranch dressing for dipping - positively enchanting.

Beer-Battered Fried Pickles
1 jar dill pickles (I used sandwich slices because that's what I had on hand, but I think it would be better with thick-cut chips)
1 egg
1 bottle of beer (I used Pale Ale)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cajun seasoning
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal

- Lay pickles on paper towels and pat them dry (this will help keep the batter from sliding off)
- Combine remaining ingredients (except oil)
- Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet (about an inch thick)
- Dip pickles in batter, allowing excess to drip off, then fry in batches until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes)
- Serve with Ranch dressing

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