Point Reyes Lighthouse

Sir Winston Churchill had many famous sayings. At the moment, this is my favorite:

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Sound advice from the “British Bulldog” as we pass through the New Year’s resolution season.

paw prints at Limantour Beach

A few of you may have noticed a brief bluster on my blog in mid-December. I had this crackpot idea, and resulting post, that flopped like a trout. The concept: A 12-day recipes series entitled The 12 Dips of Christmas—launched two weeks early by mistake.


Against Churchill’s better advice, I lost steam after that initial misstep and spent my holiday as far away from writing as possible—including a weekend trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest on the North American continent.

Turns out, the shore is a good place to shake off mild embarrassments and start fresh.

Sea cliffs at Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes National Seashore

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is another quote I just love. It’s on a placard next to my bathroom mirror and I read it each night as I brush my teeth. But despite Emerson’s admonishment to leave old nonsense behind, some bad ideas have a kernel of ingenuity worth salvaging. I decided this recipe series might be one of them. So I’m trying this again, stripped down, without the shtick.

Limantour Beach

Limantour Beach

Ok, a small shtick: Instead I bring you sweet and savory dips to ring in the New Year!

Why the obsession with dips, you may wonder? I’m a snacker; worse, I’m what my mother calls a grazer. By 3 p.m. most afternoons I find myself skulking toward the office café to purchase overpriced, mediocre munchies.

veggie platter

My health and wealth in 2012 depend in part on a steady supply of homemade snacks. The kind of crunchy bites and savory dips that make desk-sitting tolerable during the hours when more enlightened cultures schedule a siesta.

Should you likewise suffer from the afternoon sleepies, read below for a recipe remedy, and perhaps remember to channel your inner Churchill:

“Never, never, never give up.”

sweet potato-miso dip

Miso, Sesame, and Sweet Potato Dip

Recipe courtesy of Sunset Magazine

Makes 2 cups | 40 minutes

Sweet potatoes are naturally silky textured, and a great source of beta-carotene and fiber. Scoop this dip with baby bok choy, separated into leaves.

1 pound deep orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (often labeled “yams”), peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks

2 teaspoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons white (shiro) miso

1½ tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

1½ teaspoons toasted sesame seeds.

  1. Steam sweet potatoes in a large saucepan with a steamer basket and 1 inch water until very tender, about 20 minutes. (If you don’t have a steamer, just simmer chunks in the water, stirring occasionally.) Drain, reserving liquid, and let cool slightly.
  2. Whirl ginger in a food processor to mince. Add sweet potatoes, miso, tahini, soy sauce, and enough reserved sweet potato liquid for a creamy texture, about 3 tablespoons; whirl until smooth.
  3. Transfer dip into a bowl and stir in 1½ tablespoons green onions. Sprinkle with remaining ½ tablespoon onions and the sesame seeds. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with bok choy or cucumber slices.