French Onion Soup Dip

Photo fo a bowl of French Onion Soup Dip with a slice of toasted baguetteWhen I Dip, You Dip, We Dip
December is here and the holiday party season has officially begun. This time of year, the parties come in all sorts of flavors. There’s the classic office party in the conference room down the hall. OR, if you’re lucky, at the local favorite lunch spot. The cocktail party with heavy appetizers at a friend’s house is a personal favorite—mainly because it could go festive and dressy or casual with lots of wine. Either way, it’s fun to get together with the people you love to spend time with. Though I admit the parties have changed as the years have gone by.

When I was in my twenties, live bands, high heels, martinis, and girly dresses were the standard. As was getting home in the wee early hours. My 30s were the family-friendly years and involved a lot of cookie exchanges or mid-afternoon get-togethers because we were all exhausted and in bed by 9. Then came the themed parties of my forties that could be anything from a tequila tasting, to a Cajun Christmas feast, to gathering around the fire for S’mores.

As I approach my fifties, I have come to realize that the get-togethers I enjoy the most are the ones when everyone brings something sweet or savory for the crowd and we spend the time just talking and enjoying each other’s company. We may or may not be wearing stretchy pants. These are the events that, to me, require something hot and cheesy. Though honestly, when is anything hot and cheesy a bad idea?

Hot dips are the water cooler of potlucks. They are always a hit and tend to be where guests gather to catch up. I am a big fan of anything with spinach or artichokes, be they spicy or not. But, at times you want something different.

This recipe for French Onion Soup Dip is for those of you who are fans of French onion soup. I like it not so much for the soup but for the cheesy crouton on top… Hence, this dip. Serve it with toasted baguette slices or crackers…

French Onion Soup Dip Recipe
Yields approximately 5 cups Read more…

Amy’s Cranberry Cheese Ball Bites

Photo of Amy’s Cranberry Cheese Ball Bites on a wooden board

Turkey Day Tidbits
Coming up with the menu for Thanksgiving is pretty easy. I mean it’s mostly cannot-miss staples. Obviously, there’s turkey, though you can supplement with ham or whatever floats your boat. But generally, there is always turkey. Mashed potatoes are non-negotiable as are sweet potatoes in whatever form your choose—be it mashed, puréed, or roasted. At least in my house. The hardest part of planning the Thanksgiving meal is what to have to get you through to the main event.

Depending on when your family will make its way to the table for, it can be a struggle to figure out the other meals of the day. You know you are probably going to eat an obscene amount of food at some point so having a sustenance strategy that leaves room for the gluttony to come is key.

My general plan goes as follows.
Wake up and eat a decent breakfast. I don’t make too many alterations to what I would have normally. Lunch is where things get tricky. If I am at my mother-in-law’s I try not to eat an actual lunch because we have Thanksgiving around 2 PM. That is totally changed if I am with my family because we eat at 5 or 6 PM and no way I’m lasting without some lunch. This year, I am hosting everybody so I have had to split the difference. And, am planning on eating around 4 PM—which means we will need snacks to maintain sanity.

Being one myself, I am a big fan of cheese balls. They are easy to make and look pretty on a platter with crackers. They can be dangerous and filling, though. So, one has to pace themselves. I found a version of this recipe while doing a search for cranberry recipes that aren’t cranberry sauce. It took me about two seconds to decide that these babies will make an appearance on the pre-turkey snack tray. I did make a few adjustments to suit my taste…

Amy’s Cranberry Cheese Ball Bites
Yields 18 servings
Adapted from Delish

These tangy cheesy bites are rolled in tart cranberries for the perfect satisfying appetizer. The rosemary makes them festive!
Read more…

Amy’s Fall Pear Salad

Photo of Amy’s Fall Pear Salad on a white plateThe other fall fruit
When you think about the Fall season, a lot of things immediately come to mind—fallen leaves, Halloween, pumpkin spice, and, of course, apples. Apple cider, caramel apples, apple cider donuts…you get the picture. There are some people out there that picture something different. Something that is quintessentially Fall, yet is overshadowed by the mainstream. I give you the pear

I admit that I am most likely to reach for an apple than a pear but don’t take that to mean I don’t like them. My daughter is a pear fanatic. We are lucky enough that there is a pear farm only a few miles from where we live and my daughter waits impatiently every year for those pears to be at their peak. I admit they are ridiculously good. My daughter likes to put the pears in her lunch and eat them straight. I prefer to eat them in something sweet or, more often than not, with cheese.

There is something about the delicate flavor of pears that matches so well with cheese especially a strong cheese like a blue cheese or gorgonzola. Something about that pair (yes, pun intended), to me, is the epitome of fall flavor. While I am a big fan of a 4 o’clock cheese plate complete with pears, whatever cheese I have on hand, some nuts, and a drizzle of honey—my go-to vessel for pear consumption is a lightly dressed salad of crunchy butter lettuce or, again, whatever I have on hand. Arugula also works well…or a mix.

There are endless combinations for pears in salads. Nine times out of ten, my salad will have pears, blue cheese, pecans, and pomegranate seeds finished off with a Dijon vinaigrette. Sometimes I add citrus instead of the pomegranate seeds. Sometimes I add thinly sliced red onion. Sometimes I swap the pecans for hazelnuts. A handful of dried cranberries is a tasty addition as well…

Below is my basic fall pear salad recipe. Play with it as you see fit.

Amy’s Fall Pear Salad
Yields 4 Servings Read more…

Tomato Pie

Homemade Philadelphia Tomato PIe with Grated CheeseBaseball—Philly Style
After 12 years of little league, travel, and ultimately, Division One High School ball, it’s safe to say that we are baseball people. Well, my daughter is indifferent. I blame too many weekends of being dragged to tournaments and enduring my vocal enthusiasm. My husband and I have our favorite team that we love to watch but also have no problem tuning into a different game if only to passionately root for a division rival to go down in flames. (I’m looking at you, Dodgers…) Unfortunately, there was a lot of that this past season.

The end of October means that the World Series is once again upon us and I was really hoping for the feel-good story of finally seeing the Mariners get to the dance but alas, that was not meant to be. I would have been good with a New York v.s. San Diego series because there were so many interesting storylines. Aaron Judge and his home runs…San Diego spending a lot of money to get Soto…East v.ss West…you get the idea.

Instead, we have the Astros v.s .the Phillies. Not really all that exciting to this West Coaster. I am having a difficult time getting enthusiastic about watching this matchup. (Let’s be clear though, I will still watch. This is the world series after all.) The Astro’s recent scandal makes it hard to really get behind them. Plus, this will be the fourth time in five years that they have been in the Fall Classic. It’s time for someone new.

The Phillies haven’t been in the World Series since 2009. So, for that reason alone I am hoping they go all the way. And, since this is how I roll, it gives me the opportunity to explore the culinary wonders of Philadelphia beyond the obvious cheesesteak.

I have it on good authority from a friend and Philadelphia native, that a tomato pie is as quintessentially Philadelphian as cheesesteak. Now, I’m not here to start any wars but I am always here for trying something new to me. Also, I am always good with tasty carbs that can feed a crowd…

Tomato Pie Recipe
Adapted from Serious Eats
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…