Friday, July 2, 2010

An Ode To Cream Cheese.

Do you know how many calories are in an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese?  I do.

Dammit.

The fact of the matter is that, I can, without any provocation, consume all eight ounces.  And then some.  I love cream cheese.  I could pen an ode to cream cheese.  I kneel at the very altar of cream cheese.  On its own.  Mashed with chopped olives.  Sweetened for cheesecake.  (For the very Best Cheesecake Recipe ever, click here.)

When we were kids, and we were very good (i.e., “silent”), and Daddy was feeling very generous (i.e., “distracted”), we got to sit down (i.e., “sneak in”) as he watched ABC’s Wild World of Sports (from one of the four – count ‘em, four -- channels we received Chez Fountain 1975), and indulge in Coke served in frozen mugs and chips and Dip.

Serendipity.

There was only one Dip in our household.  Not “The Dip.”  Just “Dip” – cream cheese, garlic salt, onion salt, all mashed up and thinned out with a bit of water.  Ooh – and if you’ve got ‘em, some minced up pickled banana peppers.  Ta.  Dah.  “Dip.”

As you might imagine, last week, when Daddy came to visit (to buy an RV – which in itself is an RV-sized story), I automatically reached into the fridge for the Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  For Dip.  With chips.  (Ruffles.  Duh.)

A few days later, though, I pulled a second package from the fridge and examined the nutrition facts.  One brick of that salty, bland, creamy, heavenly cheese has 800 calories.  And let's not talk about portion size.  That single, none-too-slim, silvery packet is a “serving,” is it not?

Which brings me to another “dammit.”

My upcoming 30th high school reunion.

I need to lose 10 pounds.  OK.  If you insist.  Twelve.  In five weeks.

Like that will happen.  A dear friend recently told me that he lost 9 pounds in 21 days just by counting calories.  Really?  ‘Cause I don’t think I can count that high.  But I reckon I do need to start skipping the cream cheese.  And pork chops.  And bacon.  Maybe.

Tell you what, though.  There’s a perfectly fine – no, divine  -- substitute for cream cheese.  Plain Greek Yogurt.

No kidding.  A tub of plain, thick, creamy tangy Greek yogurt is the perfect dip base.  So perfect, in fact, very little seasoning is required.  A little garlic, a few fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon juice.  Just like ranch dip.  But not.  Ta.  Dah.

And no.  I’m not at all optimistic I can lose those 10 (OK, 12) pounds pre-Reunion.  But I do now know how many calories are an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese.  800.  And in 8 ounces of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt?  120.

Even I can count that high.

Ranch-Style Yogurt Dip
It's important that "Greek" yogurt -- which is very thick and creamy -- be used.
1 16-ounce tub of plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 clove garlic

Mince garlic, as finely as possible.  Now, using knife "cut in" salt, until garlic is so finely minced that the salt becomes part of it -- like a paste.  Combine salty garlic paste with remaining ingredients.  Chill and serve with fresh cut vegetables or crackers.
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