When I make a favorite recipe, it doesn’t matter how long it has been – the recipe takes me back to a special place and time. And so as I made an old family favorite a few days ago, I thought about summer days spent at a cottage on Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. My mom would make this special “cottage taco dip” almost every weekend.

The dip is a bit different than the seven-layer dips I find others make for their parties and potlucks. It has a base of avocado, cream cheese and chili powder. After blending those ingredients together and taking a quick taste, I am reminded of those care-free summer days. My only concerns were getting my chores done so I could take another dip in the lake, read another novel in the hammock or on a rainy day (do I dare admit it) play Barbies with my younger sister, Karen, in the loft, our “bedroom.”

When my mom placed the finished dip, piled high with shredded lettuce, onions, tomatoes and cheddar cheese, on the table, she had to call the adults who were visiting to come eat the dip while they could. My sister and I would be at the table as soon as we could, scooping our chips into the dip and not stopping until the last morsel was gone.

At least 25 years later, I had to laugh out loud in my own kitchen. Here were my son and daughter doing the same thing. I couldn’t believe that I had never made it for either of them. I had to urge my husband to come in and eat some of the dip before it was all gone.

After I made the dip, I called my mom to reminisce a little bit about our summer cottage. Summer “cottage,” by the way, is what we called our place. Where I grew up “camp” was the YMCA summer overnight camp I went to for two weeks each summer.

When I moved to Maine, I remember being confused when people talked about going to their camp for the weekend until I realized that they were using that word for what I thought of as “cottage.”

As we talked about how tasty the dip was, my mom explained why we ate it so often at the cottage. With all the guests we used to have, it was much easier to stick to the same few recipes. She always knew what she needed to purchase at the store and knew that she would have the right spices in the cupboard at our little place that was over an hour drive from our full-time home.

So, as barbecue season begins, I leave you with another great cottage recipe, “the cottage chicken marinade.” The pineapple juice is a yummy addition to a backyard barbecue.

Cottage chicken marinade


¾ cup soy sauce

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup pineapple juice

1 teaspoon ginger

2-3 teaspoons garlic powder


Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and pour over chicken. Marinate chicken in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before grilling.

Taco dip


1 ripe avocado, peeled

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup dairy sour cream

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 to ¼ teaspoon chili powder

Dash of salt

1 cup shredded lettuce

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

4 ounces or 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


In blender, combine avocado, cream cheese, sour cream, milk, lemon juice, chili powder and salt. Process until smooth and creamy. Spread dip evenly on large plate with sides. In layers, sprinkle with lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese. Serve with tortilla chips.

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