Tuesday, January 21, 2014


18 oz. nonfat, plain, Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, seeds removed, chopped into tiny bits
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced (2-3 teaspoons)
juice from 1/2 a lemon (or 1 Tablespoon)
1 t extra-virgin olive oil
2 T fresh dill, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste

1. Rinse dill under cold water and place between paper towels to dry.

2. Rinse and prepare cucumber, cutting it lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and cut into tiny bits. Place the bits between paper towels and apply pressure with hands by pushing down on the top so that it soaks up the excess water; leave it like this until you are ready to mix them in.

3. Prepare the rest of your ingredients except for the dill and cucumber bits that are continuing to "dry".

4. Check dill to make sure it is fairly dry; chop.

5. In a medium-large bowl, add the yogurt as your first ingredient. If yogurt has become liquidy, give it a good stir. Add the chopped dill and garlic into the yogurt mixture and mix well.

6. Add your cucumber bits; mix well.

7. Add the lemon juice and olive oil; mix well.

8. Add a bit of salt and pepper and mix well. At this point, keep tasting the sauce and add anything more to it so that it is to your liking - salt and pepper, any leftover chopped dill, more garlic, etc.

Optional: Place sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator overnight to marinate. Stir well before using.

{Recipe originally by 'The Glossy Life' blog - click here.}

First and Foremost: Before starting any recipe, ALWAYS read through the entire recipe first! This is so important - especially for anyone who is very new to cooking - and this was one of my biggest mistakes when I was still new to cooking as well. I screwed up many meals due to this one simple mistake that could've so easily been prevented. Reading through the entire recipe gives you a play-by-play of what you will need to expect and helps you plan for all steps in the process. You have no idea how many times I would start a recipe, so excited for the end results, only to get to step number five and realize I didn't have a blender or specific pan I absolutely needed in order to finish it. There are so many things that can go wrong simply from not reading through the entire recipe first.

Always wash any herbs, vegetables, fruits, etc. that a recipe calls for and set them to dry prior to starting. Trying to dice and chop foods when they are soaking wet can sometimes end up being extremely frustrating. Soaking wet herbs will stick all over to your knife and hands, and excess water from rinsing can sometimes cause your recipe to be too liquidy.

As a  new cook, I highly suggest preparing all ingredients and separating them into small little bowls just as you see chefs do on cooking shows. This may seem like you are creating extra mess and unnecessary dishwashing, but there is a very good reason I suggest this. When you are new to cooking, things seem to take way longer than with someone who is very experienced. Cutting and chopping take longer, reading through the recipe a bazillion times takes longer, even cooking and baking seems to take longer because you are constantly checking everything to make sure it is going well and still learning what things look like, smell like, taste like, and even feel like when they are done. Having all your ingredients completely prepared and ready for you to grab-and-go as soon as you need them is absolutely so helpful. After 15-years of experience I still tend to do this sometimes, especially for certain recipes with quick cooking and sauteing times.

Greek Yogurt: This recipe calls for an odd amount - by "odd", I mean that I have yet to find an 18 oz. Greek yogurt sold in any store. The large tubs of yogurt are usually sold in 24 oz. tubs. For any of the newbies, (or anyone that just isn't that great with math and measurements), here is what I did...
A) Like I said, most large tubs are 24 oz. and this is exactly the size I purchased. You are going to need to use some basic math as well as needing a measuring cup that is either in ounces (preferred) or cups. 
B) You will need to figure out how much yogurt to remove from the tub in order to leave you with 18-ounces that you will use for this recipe. Here is where the basic math comes in; subtract 18 from 24 (or whatever size your tub is, in my case it was a 24-ounce tub) which gives you 6. So now you know that you will need to remove 6-ounces of yogurt from the tub in order to give you the exact 18-ounces you need for the recipe. What I did was remove the 6-ounces and place it into a bowl, scooped the rest of the 18-ounces out of the tub when it came time to use it in the recipe, then I put the 6-ounces back into the tub for safe keeping in the refrigerator for a later time and use. Easy peasy, right?
C) There are several ways you can measure the 6-ounces when you follow this step; the main one is to use a measuring cup that actually lists ounces. If you do not own a measuring cup that lists ounces on it (and I do recommend that you eventually purchase one) you can also use "cups" to measure. With technology so advanced now days, it is extremely easy to convert ounces to cups, tablespoons to teaspoons, etc. There are a bazillion internet sites, you can just plug in your question to Google or Bing, or if you have a newer iPhone like I do then you can ask Siri - (no joke, I actually use Siri a lot when I need a quick reference in the kitchen). In this case, 6-ounces converts to 3/4-cups exactly. If the tub of yogurt you purchased isn't 24-ounces like the one used in this situation, hopefully I have given you enough information and tools to figure out exactly what you need to do in your case. If anything, since this is just a dip, your measurements don't exactly have to be perfect so don't worry about it too much if you can't figure it out exactly.

Cucumber: Not too much to say about this ingredient for new cooks except, make sure you actually purchase a cucumber and NOT a zucchini - (don't laugh, I actually made this mistake years ago). Of course, always, always, always rinse your herbs and vegetables prior to preparing them. For more on preparing, slicing, chopping, and de-seeding vegetables - click here.

Garlic & Lemon Juice: Of course, purchasing fresh garlic and fresh lemons is always the healthiest choice. But as a new cook first learning all the details I absolutely know how overwhelming it can be, especially when it comes to trying to peel and mince a fresh garlic clove. Plus, how many new cooks really have the tools to "properly" mince garlic and juice lemons? Not to mention, when you are first learning it seems like everything you prepare and cook takes a million times longer than someone who has been doing it for years, and mincing garlic, along with juicing fresh lemons, isn't going to make it any more quick. My suggestion - and I still do this - is to purchase minced and chopped garlic in the jars, along with bottled lemon juice. The garlic can be found in the produce department (I usually can find it near the tomatoes) and the lemon and lime juices are usually in the juice aisle (though not always). When it comes down to it, do not be afraid to track down a store employee and ask them a bazillion questions - keep them on their toes! Once you have become more experienced as a cook then go ahead and try new things like mincing fresh garlic yourself or juicing a fresh lemon.

Garlic in the jar will always have a conversion listed on the side to show you how much to measure out for one clove. And here is another tip, whenever a recipe says something like "3-4 cloves of garlic", always use the lesser amount first. After all your ingredients are in and everything is mixed well you can then add more if you like. It's always best to be able to add more later than to add too much first because once it's in, it's in.

Olive Oil: Olive oil comes in many different varieties, but I always buy extra virgin - (I may do a blog on this later explaining the different types of oils, including olive, and the health benefits or non-benefits of each.) I purchased one of these squeeze bottles to put my olive oil in and it sits right by my stove (next to my wine...yum) for easy access. You should be able to find these empty squeeze bottles in the kitchen utensil aisle or in the baking utensil aisle - you can even find them at craft stores and I believe even the Dollar Store/Tree.

Dill: When a recipe calls for fresh herbs, the very first step you always want to take is to wash your herbs and set them to dry. Herbs can be very frustrating to chop when they are wet, so you always want to give them ample time to dry before preparing them for your recipe.

For the most part I usually purchase my dill completely fresh (it comes loosely or in bunches) from my local health food store or farmer's market. Once we move into a bigger place I plan on growing my own herbs. Stores like Safeway usually carry dill (and other herbs) in these pre-packaged plastic containers and are usually in the area around the packaged salads or mushrooms. Though you can always use dried dill (in most people's spice cupboards) when in a pinch, I highly suggest always using fresh herbs when the recipe calls for it - not to mention it is just a lot more healthy and contains more of it's original nutrients. If you are not sure how much dill to wash and dry for this recipe, refer to the picture here below. I pulled out about half of the dill from the package (you can see it all laying out) and after I removed the stems and chopped it all up it actually ended up making about 2 1/2 tablespoons. Here is another good hint: whenever you prepare anything like veggies and herbs for a recipe and you end up with more than the recipe calls for, don't throw away the excess right away. Save it until the end. Once you have mixed everything together you may want to add a little more to suit your taste. In this case, I actually did end up throwing in the rest of what was left over and the sauce ended up being fabulous!

Salt and Pepper: When it comes to salt and pepper, for ANY recipe, there are two main things to keeping it healthier - always use sea salt versus regular salt, and use freshly ground pepper. I purchase sea salt in a large container and washed out an old, empty spice container to use for just this purpose. For freshly ground pepper, you can purchase a pepper grinder (found in the kitchen utensils aisle) and peppercorns, or you can purchase a pre-packaged pepper grinder (found in the spice aisle) though I have found that sometimes these pre-packaged ones can be hard to locate. The one you see in the photo above (that shows all the ingredients together), I believe I found at Safeway. {Stay tuned for future blog postings regarding sea salt versus regular salt, and freshly ground pepper versus already ground pepper.}

Finishing: Whether you are creating a dip, sauce, baked goods, etc. here is a little tip - mix in one or a couple ingredients at a time, mix well, then continue with one or two more ingredients, mix well, continue...you get my point. This helps each ingredient get mixed well and evenly and will result in a better tasting product when finished.

When it comes to homemade sauces, dips, and salad dressings it is always best to prepare it a day ahead of time then place into a covered container and put it in the refrigerator to sit overnight. This allows all the flavors to marinate together and it really results in a more flavorful item. When you are ready to serve, make sure to give it a good stir.

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