Make Herbal Spreads, Dips and Butters

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Most of the butter-based recipes will work just as well with margarine, as long as it’s not a reduced-fat or fat-free spread.
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If you’re used to salty store-bought dips and spreads, you might want to add a bit of salt to these recipes, but make sure to account for the salt already in the cream cheese or butter.
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Always drain yogurt (in a coffee filter set in a colander) before adding it to a dip or spread, or leftovers will end up soupy.
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Give hearty, more intense herbs like lavender, sage or rosemary plenty of time to develop by refrigerating the mixture for a few hours before serving. More delicate herbs like basil, tarragon or parsley can be added right before serving.
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These dips and spreads are perfect to take to holiday parties and potlucks, and they make delicious gifts, too.
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Light cream cheese works just as well as the full-fat version, but avoid fat-free cream cheese as it detracts from the taste of the herbs.
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These dips and spreads are perfect to take to holiday parties and potlucks, and they make delicious gifts, too.

During a recent restaurant outing, I watched as my dinner guests and I consumed basket after basket of bread while ignoring the delicious entrees in front of us. It wasn’t the rather-ordinary bread that had mesmerized our tastebuds, however. Instead, we were delighted by the creamy, herb-accented, flavorful spread that had accompanied the endless baskets. Knowing the spread consisted of little more than a handful of chives, some butter and a bit of lemon juice, I took my inspiration from our meal and set out to create my own version of the spread at a fraction of the cost that the restaurant had charged.

The benefits of homemade herb butters, dips and spreads go beyond the budget. They’re a great opportunity to experiment with flavors of herbs without worrying about ruining expensive ingredients (many of the dips start with a base of butter, cream cheese or yogurt), and are a fine way to use up leftover herbs, dried or fresh. And for me, the chance to control the salt, spiciness and flavor concentration is particularly appealing. That said, try these recipes to get your creative juices flowing, then adjust, enhance or just plain create your own.

Herbal Dips, Spreads and Butters:

• Silver Spoon Cream Cheese Butter
• Whipped Honey Herb Butter
• Curry Cream Cheese Spread
• Italian Style Dried Tomato Spread
• Pineapple Sage Muffin Spread
• Harold’s-My-Hero Horseradish Bagel Spread
• Light and Lively Lima Bean Dip
• Pseudo Tzatziki
• Toasted Pita Dunkers

Regular Herb Companion contributor Rose R. Kennedy loves experimenting in her Knoxville, Tenn., kitchen with homegrown herbs.

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