Two Great Party Dips

Good friends of ours had an Age of Aquarius party last night for their joint birthday. Of course I had to cook something to bring. I picked a caramelized onion dip and sun-dried tomato dip, both from Barefoot Contessa.

Pan Fried Onion DipPan-Fried Onion Dip
Makes 2 cups
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (I use 2 Tbsp.)
  • 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I use 2 Tbsp. olive oil)
  • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper (use up to ½ tsp. if you want it spicy)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I use the ⅓ less fat Neufchâtel)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup good mayonnaise (I use the light Hellmann’s)
Cut the onions in half and then slice them into ⅛” thick half-rounds (I use the thin setting on my mandolin). (You will have about 3 cups of onion.)
Onions after 5-10 minutes

Onions after 5-10 minutes

Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow onions to cool.

Caramelized OnionPlace the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth. (I use my food processor fitted with a metal blade.) Add onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings.
Serve at room temperature.
I serve this with Kettle Brand potato chips – either the Sea Salt variety or Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper. You could also serve with fresh vegetables and crackers for dipping.
Sun Dried Tomato DipSun-Dried Tomato Dip
Makes 2 cups
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (~8 tomatoes)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I use the 1/3 less fat Neufchâtel)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup good mayonnaise (I use the light Hellmann’s)
  • 10 dashes Tabasco sauce (I use the Green Jalapeño Tabasco)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (I use 3/4 tsp.)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
Purée the tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, Tabasco, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the scallions and pulse twice. Serve at room temperature.
When I am serving this with the onion dip above, I use the same Kettle Brand potato chips for both. You could also serve with crackers and fresh vegetables.
Do not substitute the dry sun-dried tomatoes for the oil-packed ones; the flavor will not be as intense.

French Bistro Menu

Last month was Eric’s and mine 20th anniversary. We went on a cruise. Without the kids. It was fabulous.

Toes in the sandMy parents kept our boys. Before they left, I cooked a very nice dinner to thank them for watching Nate & Andy. My parents had given me the latest Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Foolproof, for Hanukkah, so I used that as my starting point, and pulled a few recipes from another Barefoot Contessa cookbook I own, Barefoot in Paris, to create a French Bistro menu to rival any restaurant. This is a menu to cook when you need to impress your dinner guests.
French Bistro DinnerFrench Bistro Menu
Scallops Provençal, from Barefoot in Paris
Scallops ProvencalGreen Beans Gremolata, from Foolproof
Green Beans GremolataProvençal Cherry Tomato Gratin, From Foolproof
Cherry Tomato GratinI also served plain white basmati rice.
All of the recipes that I used are available on the Internet (just click on the recipe), so I’m not going to type them all in here. I pretty much followed each recipe to the letter and they were all fabulous!
French Madeleines from Costco were the perfect ending.

Menu for Atlanta Falcons Fans

I’m not a big football fan. I didn’t grow up in a football town – baseball & hockey are much bigger in St Louis than football; I didn’t go to a big football college either. However, my husband likes watching football & so does his family. So, today, the Atlanta Falcons are playing in the NFC championship game and Eric’s family is over to watch the game. Of course, I am cooking (it IS all about the food). I tried to create a menu based on some ingredients associated with Georgia – Vidalia onions, peaches and Coca-Cola. My menu for today is:

Munchies

  • Baked Vidalia Onion Dip served with Triscuits
  • Peach Salsa (purchased from Costco) served with tortilla chips
  • Palmetto brand Pimento Dip (purchased from Publix) served with Wheat Thins
Baked Vidalia Onion Dip

Baked Vidalia Onion Dip

Pimento Cheese Football

Pimento Cheese Football

I molded the pimento dip into a football-shaped cake pan and my older son decorated it with pimento strips to look like a football. 

Dinner

  • “Dirty Bird” Chicken Sandwiches (crock-pot Coca-Cola BBQ chicken)
  • Coleslaw (my own recipe)
  • Baked Beans – I buy the Bush’s brand Vegetarian Beans

The Baked Vidalia Onion dip recipe and BBQ chicken recipe both come from The Official SEC Tailgating Cookbook by Southern Living. The vidalia onion dip was fantastic but the BBQ chicken recipe was so-so. I put out some bottled BBQ sauce for people to add to their sandwiches.

 

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Coleslaw

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Coleslaw

Rise Up Falcons!! – edited: There’s Always Next Year

Election 2012 Dinner – Recipes and Photos

If you didn’t see the menu (or the ballot) for our Election Night 2012 Dinner yesterday, here it is:

  • Buffalo Left Wings (the drummettes) & Parmesan Right Wings (the flats)
  • Wedge Issue Salad with Blue State Cheese, Red State Tomatoes, Purple Swing State Onions and Pork Barrel Crispy Bacon Bits
  • Stuff Your Own Ballot Calzones

Buffalo Wings
I followed the instructions in this recipe on Epicurious.com for cooking these wings. The wings are baked on a cooling rack (such as for cookies) placed on top of a rimmed baking sheet. That way the grease & fat dripped down and away from the wings. It worked quite well although next time I will probably spritz the cooking rack with a little spray oil to keep the wings from sticking. If you line the rimmed baking sheet with foil you will really reduce the pans needed to be cleaned at the end of the night. I did not toss the wings with oil as per the recipe, because I felt I was trying to reduce the grease-factor, not add to it; plus the wing sauce already has butter in it.

Per the recipe referenced above, bake the wings at 400º for 45 minutes.

Plain Baked Chicken Wing Drummettes

While the wings were cooking, I melted 2 Tbsp butter in a bowl & mixed in ¼ cup Texas Pete Hot Sauce. After the hot wings came out of the oven, I tossed them in the bowl with the hot sauce mixture. It was the right amount of sauce for my 1¼ lb of wings. They came out on the medium side of mild.

Baked Chicken Wings in Buffalo Sauce

I served them with celery sticks, bottled ranch and bottled blue cheese dressing (Cindy’s brand which I buy at Whole Foods in the produce section).

Parmesan Right Wings
For these wings I used this recipe from TasteOfHome.com

The wings are dipped in melted butter with a pinch of garlic powder and then into a mixture of dried bread crumbs & Parmesan cheese (this is definitely the time to use the stuff from the green can).
They were cooked on a foil-lined cookie sheet but would probably be even better if they had been elevated as the Buffalo wings were. I baked them as directed at 350º for 50-60 minutes.

These were by far the winner of the family taste test.

Wedge Issue Salad
This was just a standard wedge salad with catchy names for all the components.

Wedge cut pieces of iceberg lettuce
Red State Tomatoes – diced tomatoes
Purple Swing State Onions – thinly sliced red (purple) onion rings
Pork Barrel Crispy Bits – cooked & crumbled bacon
Blue State Cheese – blue cheese dressing (the same the I used above for the Buffalo wings)

Stuff your Own Ballot Calzones
I can buy 1-lb bags of pizza dough at my local Publix which is exactly what I did yesterday. Each of two bags was split into two balls and then rolled out so I had the base of 4 calzones ready. I prepared a bunch of toppings and let each person assemble their own calzone.

Toppings I used: diced cooked onions, diced cooked green pepper, sautéed sliced mushrooms, sliced black olives, shredded mozzarella cheese, sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and precooked chicken Italian sausage which I sliced & sautéed. For calzones, the vegetables all need to be precooked or they will release too much liquid into the middle of your calzone.

Calzone Topping Bar

I followed an article in an old issue of Fine Cooking (May 2008) about pizzas, calzones & strombolis. Since it’s not available on their website unless you are a member, I’ve summarized the instructions that I used below.

You could certainly use a purchased pizza sauce or even marinara sauce but I used the quick no-cook sauce from FineCooking.com that was part of the article about calzones.

Before shaping the dough, preheat the oven to 500º.

Shape the dough – Using floured hands and a floured work surface, press one dough ball into a round disk with your fingers. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a circle or oval (or what ever crazy shape your dough wants to make) about ⅜” thick. Dust both sides with flour. Repeat for the other balls of dough.
Fill calzones – spread about ¼ cup of sauce on one half of the dough leaving a narrow border. Cover with about ½ cup of soft melting cheese. Add your choice of additional toppings. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp grated hard cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago).
Brush the edge of the dough with cool water and fold the empty half of dough over the filling. Crimp edges with a fork.Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (not wax paper). Brush top with olive oil and cut three steam vents (we tried to carve initials in ours).Put baking sheet in oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 450º. Bake until crust turns a rich golden brown. Serve with additional tomato sauce for dipping.

My personal calzone – pepperoni and lots of veggies

I really had fun coming up with catchy ideas for Election Night and it definitely a great way to talk about concepts such as wedge issues and stuffed ballots without sounding too too much like a teacher.

Also, the wings & calzones are fabulous recipes for any football watching you might be doing this Fall. Let me know what you think!

Election Night 2012 Dinner Menu

I know you can’t stand the suspense (I gave you a preview in this post) anymore so I decided to let you know what we’ll be having for dinner tonight while watching the election returns. At least you can go to bed knowing the outcome of one race 🙂 I will post recipes & pictures tomorrow.

Appetizer – Buffalo Left Wings and Crispy Parmesan Right Wings

Salad – Wedge Issue Salad with Blue State Cheese, Red State Tomatoes and Purple Swing State Onions

Main – Stuff Your Own Ballot Calzones

Dessert – Everyone’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies & Ice Cream

I hope you have a calm evening and may the best dish win!!

Braces Off Celebration plus Election Dinner Preview

My older son finally got his braces off yesterday & I planned a celebratory meal based on foods he wasn’t allowed to eat with braces on (but did anyway). Here is my adorable son.

Nate without Braces

I wasn’t going to serve candy apples and LaffyTaffy for dinner so I decided on corn on the cob, nuts & crunchy raw carrots.

For the nuts I made a Pecan-Crusted Cod based on this Pistachio-Crusted Cod from FineCooking.com

Pecan-Crusted Cod
  • ½ cup pecan pieces⅓ cup panko
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan (from the green shaker can, horrors)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 pieces of cod
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 425º. Mix pecans, panko, Parmesan & olive oil together in a small bowl (I forgot the olive oil & just ended up drizzling it over the fish after topping with pecan mixture.)

Line a rimmed cookie sheet or broiler pan with foil & mist with spray oil. Place fish pieces on foil & spread with the Dijon. Carefully cover each piece of fish with the pecan topping. Season with salt & pepper. (This is when I drizzled the olive oil on top)Bake for 10-12 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the topping is crisp & browned.

For the raw carrots I just served a veggie tray with bottled ranch (gasp!).

And, we used our standard method for the corn:
  • Shuck corn
  • Lay out piece of foil big enough to wrap one ear in.
  • Put pat of butter in the middle of the foil.
  • Place corn on the butter.
  • Season with salt & pepper.
  • Wrap up.
  • Repeat for all ears
  • Grill corn (that’s Eric’s job – one of these days I need to learn how to use the grill).

Last but not least, the preview for tomorrow’s Election Night Dinner…..

Election 2012 Dinner Ballot

Polenta with Italian Sausage and Peppers ‘n Onions

If you’ve never had polenta, think of it as Italian grits. This is comfort food; and, after dropping my iPad and cracking the screen yesterday, it was just what I needed. While polenta is good with all kinds of food, we especially like it with Italian sausage and peppers & onions. This is fabulous fare for your Labor Day cookout or fall tailgating.

Polenta
Serves 4-6
  • 3 cups water, to boil
  • 1⅓ c. plain cornmeal
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 c. (16 oz) grated sharp cheddar
Bring the 3 cups of water to boil. Add dried herbs. Combine 2 c. cold water and cornmeal in a bowl. Immediately pour the cornmeal mixture into the boiling water. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook until polenta thickens, stirring constantly.
When the polenta is thick but still pour-able, remove from the heat. Add cheese and stir until combined. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
You can also pour it into a baking dish (spritz with spray oil first) and then broil it. Or, after pouring into the baking dish, chill it and lift slices out (like brownies) to be grilled.
Italian Sausage and Peppers & Onions
I buy the sweet Italian chicken sausage at my grocery and then either Eric grills it or if the weather isn’t cooperating it gets sautéed as below.
Same for the peppers & onions.
Sometimes I serve marinara sauce on the side for dipping (delicious with the polenta, too).
Last night I also sautéed some mushrooms for an additional side.
And, in case you were curious, my iPad is not doomed. I was able to drop it off at an Apple reseller store last night to get the glass replaced and should have it back this weekend.