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!
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Mocha Pound Cake

Mocha Pound CakeLet Them Eat Cake
There you sit. You have your turkey and gravy. You have your stuffing and your mountain of mashed potatoes. The cranberry sauce sings its siren song to you from the middle of the table. Your mouth is watering in anticipation of the feeding frenzy that is about to commence. (Step aside Joey Chestnut.)

The little voice inside your head reminds you to save room for dessert. But, you know that dessert consists mainly of pies. You are not really a fan of pumpkin pie or any kind of pie. The accompanying vanilla ice cream is always good but lacks a certain wow factor. What do you do? Leave room for the ice cream or go big on the yams?

To me, the Thanksgiving feast isn’t complete unless there is a pecan pie at the end of it. Some have the same intense feelings towards pumpkin pie. For my dad, it’s a mince pie. One of my relatives, though, is the ice cream guy. The reason? He just doesn’t like pie. Any pie. (I know. Freak of nature.) It got me thinking about what would be an appropriate cake for Thanksgiving.

My daughter suggested a carrot cake which makes a lot of sense given the spices. But, she was adamant that there be no raisins. (There is a serious raisin aversion amongst my children). I figured anything harvest-y would work well. A spicy cake with hazelnut frosting is very autumnal, or even this Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting would be lovely.

But, what about getting away from the flavors of pumpkin and other pies? You could just go crazy with a double chocolate cake. You can never go wrong with a chocolate cake. This Mocha Pound Cake recipe works particularly well for a couple of reasons. It is a bundt cake which makes it easy especially when oven space is at a premium. And, it contains coffee which is always necessary to battle the snoozies after you have stuffed yourself…

Mocha Pound Cake Recipe
Adapted from King Arthur Baking Read more…

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped CreamPod People
My sister invited my family over for dinner about a week ago for no real reason except to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t live within the walls of her home. We’ve done this a lot over the past few months. We are a pod.

Much like many people these days, coming up with something to make for dinner is a bit of a challenge. Even devout cooks like my sister and I are fairly tired of preparing three meals a day. Cooking fatigue is real, my friends. After some heavy thinking (and since it’s a family favorite) she decided to go with paella for dinner. I was put in charge of dessert.

You would think deciding on a dessert would be easy, you would be wrong. Because we were having Spanish cuisine, I wanted to make something chocolate-y because when I think of Spain I think of Spanish hot chocolate and churros. However, I had no desire to fry up churros. I also did not want to do the usual cake because I didn’t want to turn on the oven and make the house hotter. I wanted something different.

I came across this recipe for Panna Cotta and knew it would be the perfect choice. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream that uses gelatin for thickening so it can be molded. It is essentially a custard without the eggs. The recipe I found uses Nutella as the base—and you just can’t go wrong with the flavor of chocolate and hazelnuts. It was a hit all around and the perfect ending to a tasty meal.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make this. The Panna Cotta needs as much time as you can give it to set. Topped with plain, sweetened whipped cream, this dessert is so good. Adding a little booze to your whipped cream takes it to an even higher level. I chose to use Frangelico to keep the flavors consistent, but Cointreau would also work well with the chocolate.

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream
Yields 6 servings
Adapted from NY Times Cooking
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