It’s almost scary to think about, but we are heading into the “dog days” of summer; the stretch of summer that is almost unbearable. It’s also the stretch of summer that if you don’t have air conditioning, the microwave seems like the only viable method of cooking anything indoors. We kind of have air conditioning. The in-laws have a window unit in the living room and use a fan to pull the cool air- almost successfully- into the kitchen. This is a sad commentary, actually, since the living room is connected to the kitchen by an open doorway. It’s not like we have to pull the cool air from one end of the house to the other. This being the case, I am approaching the time that I will be using the stove less than I have been so far this summer. The hitch is the fact that I don’t use the microwave to cook. That particular piece of machinery is solely for things like boiling water and… well, that’s pretty much all I do with it. In fact, I don’t use it for that all too often either. When this microwave dies we will not be replacing it. That leaves me with the question “What do I make for dinner now?!” I do have options, a few of them being: salads (been there done that), grilling over our fire pit (a blog post about that is forthcoming), and “tea”- not the drink, but the meal.

I would imagine all of you have some kind of picture that springs to mind when you hear the words “tea party”. You see women in beautiful dresses sipping tea from china cups with saucers and eating cute little tea sandwiches and cakes. And that is a proper tea party. And I do love throwing a proper tea party! But that’s not what I’m talking about. In England, Ireland (my home one day!), and Scotland “tea” is a meal. Just small servings of easy foods alongside a cup of… well, anything anymore. Hot tea, iced tea, coffee- anything goes. Whatever is refreshing to you. The point is that you are having a small meal so that you don’t go to bed with a heavy stomach. In this case it’s just too hot to have a heavy stomach- at any time of day!

One of my favorite “tea” menus is so simple my kids can do it! Lunchmeat, cheese, crackers, fruit and/or veggies with dip(s), and something ice cold to drink. This isn’t just something to do for dinner in hot weather either. This can be lunch at the office, a picnic in the park, or something to nosh on while chatting with friends.

Here is what we had for dinner last night…

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Good quality sliced ham (sliced into sections for easier eating) and Tillamook Cheddar (my favorite widely accessible American Cheddar) on Ritz crackers, apples, carrots, and some homemade dips. I’ll include the recipe for the Nutella fruit dip below (I was just playing around one day and hit the jackpot!) but I’m going to wait on giving the recipe for the French onion dip. I’m still playing with the recipe to get it just right. This was so easy to put together that I had dinner on the table in under 10 minutes. Usually I just put the ingredients onto separate plates or trays and everyone helps themselves. That way everyone can have as much as they like and the kids are still at the age that it’s novel to fill their own plates 🙂

This could easily be spreadable herbed cheese on baguette rounds with some sliced chicken or turkey, grapes, and olives. Or maybe some Swiss, spiral sliced ham, and mustard on slices of cocktail rye (or even regular rye cut into triangles), Granny Smith apples, and some red pepper strips with ranch. Or you could go all out and make crustless finger sandwiches, tarts, and cakes, serve it all on your best tableware, and dress in your summer finery. That would be a fun and whimsical way to end a summer’s day! 🙂

Only 9 more weeks of summer! We’ve hit single digits! The kids are pining to go back to school (yes- our kids adore school), I’m thinking of all the fall and autumn get togethers to be had, and my husband & I are looking ahead to harvest and the canning & preserving to be done. I can’t wait!!

So for this Nutella dip I was in the mood for a fruit dip but didn’t want my regular dip (cream cheese, maple syrup, sour cream, and brown sugar. I’ll post it this fall). I started looking in my pantry and spotted the Nutella. “That could work!” I said as I grabbed it & headed to the fridge. I got the cream cheese out and started it softening. The same method I use for butter works for cream cheese too. Once softened, I started beating the cream cheese and adding Nutella. I ended up with about the same amount as I had of cream cheese- I wanted it to be really chocolatey. Then I realized it wasn’t going to be very dip-like once it chilled, so I added milk until it was a tiny bit runnier than I wanted (as it will firm up a bit in the fridge). I tried it after it had time to chill and it was AMAZING! It’s a little like a super rich chocolate pudding. I really could eat it with a spoon!

The Recipe:

8 Oz. Cream Cheese, softened

8 Oz. Nutella

~ 3-4 T of milk (depending on how thick you want the finished product to be. The full 4 tablespoons will get you the consistency of pudding. I wish I could tell you exactly but I didn’t really measure. I just add until it’s right.)

The Method:

*With an electric mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the Nutella until completely smooth.

*Add the milk and beat until combined.

*Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

*Serve with apples, grapes, strawberries, pound cake, vanilla wafers,… seriously, ANYTHING is awesome with this dip!!

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