Dill Pickle Dip
April 30th is a day that always causes a great deal of reflection; yesterday was the 7th year anniversary of what was, undoubtedly, the worst day of my life. April 30, 2009 was the day of my first (of many) CT scans, which resulted in a call from my nurse telling me I needed to come back as soon as possible. I knew that my odds of getting good news that day were low, but I still wasn’t actually prepared to hear that I had cancer.
That day was the start of a journey I did not anticipate taking, at least not until much, much later in life. It was thrust upon me at the ripe old age of 20, and there was no chance in hell it was going to beat me. I got the official prognosis a couple of weeks later – I had Stage IV B, E, & S Hodgkin Lymphoma. You might be asking yourself what all those fun letters mean, so let me break it down for you: Stage IV = cancer cells have moved outside of the lymph system into other tissues/organs in the body; B = other symptoms are present as a result of the cancer, in my case night sweats; E = Extranodal cancers that have spread beyond the lymph system (i.e. lungs); and S = an extranodal cancer that has spread to the spleen. I had cancerous cells in the lymph nodes in my neck and chest, a spot on each lung, and a spot in my spleen. I guess you could say my approach to cancer was “Go big, or go home.”
I had an amazing oncology team at the University of Minnesota, thanks to my wonderful cousin Erin; and went through 8 rounds of chemo over 6 months, I had 6 blood transfusions, was hospitalized once for a high fever due to the flu, but never once did I lose hope or waiver in my confidence that I would overcome that obstacle. I am a firm believer in the power of positive thinking and knew I would be toast without it; but it also helps that the odds were in my favor for beating it.
Now, you might be wondering how this monologue could possibly morph its way into being about food, but stick with me and I promise we’ll get there. As a part of my chemo I had to take high doses of the steroid Prednisone for two weeks each round. Contrary to popular belief, not all steroids cause bulky muscles, and Prednisone can in fact lead to muscle wasting or weakness. It can also cause intense food cravings, something I had never truly experienced until that time. Sure, I’d had the random cravings for certain foods (doesn’t pizza sound good right now?); but the Prednisone cravings would keep me awake at night as I tried to decide what I was going to have for breakfast the next day. I would get a certain food stuck in my head, and it was all I could think about. I imagine that it’s a lot like the crazy cravings pregnant women have.
One such craving was for dill pickles, and I’m pretty sure I ate a whole jar in one day (I guess a 20 year old can’t be trusted home alone with a jar of pickles…). I constantly wanted salty things, and I would have been set if I had the recipe for this dill pickle dip during that time. It combines two of my most common cravings – pickles and cream cheese! As an added bonus, it is super easy to make.
The dip has 5 ingredients total (ok, 7 if you count salt and pepper), and requires relatively minimal effort. To start you’ll want to soften some cream cheese on the counter for about an hour (maybe two). While that is softening, you can chop the pickles and finely dice some onion.
I try really hard to get the onion dices as small as possible. I like using a mild white onion, and it really does not overpower the dip at all. The pickles get a medium dice (it is pickle dip after all); and I like the crunch the give to the finished product. The other components of the dip are pickle juice and dried dill weed, which kick it up a couple of notches, and some salt and pepper.
Once the cream cheese is softened, I put it into a large bowl and smooth it out with a wooden spoon. I then like to add the pickle juice to the cream cheese to loosen it up even more. To that mixture, I’ll add the rest of my ingredients and stir until it’s all combined.
You could eat the dip at this point, but you should really do yourself a favor and refrigerate it for at least an hour. It’ll be pretty soft right away, and it does taste better if you give it time to hangout and set up while the flavors meld.
After an hour or so, the dip is ready for
inhalation consumption. I like serving it with pretzel crisps, or flatbread crackers, and it’s equally as delicious on potato chips or as a spread on a sandwich or burger. I also have a hunch that I would love this on a warm toasted bagel…
I will be the first to acknowledge that my college experience was quite different than that of my peers; and while it might have been a whole lot easier had I not had cancer, I know that I would not be the person I am today without that part of my life. I am very proud to be a survivor, and am thankful for the opportunity to learn just how strong I am.