Better Than Boxed: Homemade Onion Dip

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is enjoying some ridged potato chips with a creamy onion dip. This doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that my preferred dip is one that you make by mixing sour cream with a packet of dried onion soup by Lipton. It’s a classic taste that still makes me just as happy as it did when I was a little kid enjoying some at a party, though it’s not something I’ll make a regular part of my diet anytime soon. The reason: That tiny packet hanging out in the back of my pantry has 14 different ingredients in it. No thanks! I set out to try to replicate the flavor and ended up with a slightly more sophisticated twist that I now like even more than the original.

Better Than Boxed: Homemade Caramelized Onion Dip by

Better Than Boxed: Homemade Caramelized Onion Dip by

Replacing the sour cream with tangy crème fraîche definitely elevated this dip from something I would serve to friends watching a football game, to something I’d put out at an afternoon garden party (though it would be a welcome addition to both). This weekend we enjoyed the dip with crispy zucchini cakes (stay tuned for that recipe soon) as well as a few potato chips. Let’s just say, we don’t have too much left…

Homemade Caramelized Onion Dip

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced into thin strips 
  • 1 8-ounce container crème fraîche
  • kosher salt

1. Heat a large pan over medium-low. Add the butter and let melt. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until caramelized. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. Transfer crème fraîche to a small bowl. Roughly chop onions and add to bowl. Mix until well combined and add salt to taste. Let sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

SWWU Tip 1: Want an even more sophisticated flavor? Used caramelized shallots instead. 

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Sweeten the Deal

This past holiday season some of our friends gifted us with a mega bottle of grade B maple syrup. We’re talking 64 ounces of delicious liquid gold! Having so much around the house might seem a bit excessive, but it definitely gives us an opportunity to experiment with some different uses and not really worry about a dwindling supply.

Over the weekend we tested out an idea for popcorn coated with maple and orange zest. After a few different attempts, here’s our winner:

Orange-Maple Popcorn by

Orange-Maple Popcorn by

Orange-Maple Popcorn

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more if desired
  • pinch kosher salt, plus more if desired

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the canola oil, maple syrup, honey, vanilla extract, orange zest and popcorn kernels. Toss to coat, put a lid on and heat over medium. Every 15 seconds or so, move the pan in a circular motion, without removing it from the burner and without lifting the lid. Do this for 60 to 90 seconds or until you hear the popcorn begin to pop. Remove from heat as soon as you hear 3 or more seconds between each pop.

2. Immediately pour into a serving bowl and top with ground cinnamon and salt. Taste and add more of either of desired.

SWWU Tip 1: This popcorn can burn very easily. Keep the heat at medium and be sure to remove the saucepan from heat as soon as the popping is complete. 

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Mini Baked French Toast Cups

Brian and I like to go all out when making breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Stuffed french toast, bacon-apple pancakes, the list goes on and on. But when Monday morning rolls around and we’re rushing to get out the door, yogurt and a quick bowl of cereal seems to be our go-to. In need of a little yumspiration during the week we whipped up a mini version of our breakfast strata. The personal-sized french toasts are baked in muffin cups making them the perfect bite to reheat for a quick and delicious mid-week breakfast.

Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups by

Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups by

Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups

Makes 18 personal french toasts

  • 1 loaf challah
  • cooking spray
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, plus additional for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 1/4 cup blueberries
  • turbinado sugar, for dusting

1. Cut the challah into 1-inch cubes and set aside to dry out (overnight is best, but I’ve let the bread sit for as little as an hour in a pinch).

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a muffin pan generously with cooking spray and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until they are well beaten. Add the milk, vanilla extract, maple syrup, salt and lemon zest; stir until combined.

4. Add the bread to the egg mixture and toss to coat making sure every piece of bread is well soaked. Mix in the blueberries. Transfer the bread mixture to the prepared muffin pan, making sure to pack the bread into each cup, so the base of each one is full. Sprinkle sugar on top and bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until browned and crispy on the edges. Let rest in pan for 5 minutes, then repeat with remaining mixture. Serve immediately with maple syrup on the side if desired or let cool on a wire rack then store covered in the freezer.

Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups by

Hot-from-the-oven Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups by

SWWU Tip: These taste best when reheated in a 350°F oven for 7 to 9 minutes. In a pinch, you can warm one in a microwave, it only takes about 45 seconds.

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Cutting the Mustard

I have a confession: I’m not a fan of fancy homemade ketchup. My heart always sinks a little when I’m out to dinner and the server puts down a burger and fries and presents me with a ramekin of their chef’s own special creation. Perhaps it’s years of conditioning, but nothing beats the classic Heinz 57. Some things are just better left alone. But for everything that homemade ketchup is not, a fresh batch of DIY mustard certainly is a tasty treat. Brian and I recently made some to go along with a ham dish we were serving some friends. The spicy spread was a big hit and we have been dipping into it frequently.

Whole-Grain Stout Mustard by

Whole-Grain Stout Mustard by

Here’s how we did it:

Whole-Grain Stout Mustard

(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, published on August 10, 2011)

Makes a little over 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dark beer (such as Shipyard Blue Fin Stout)
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, plus more as needed

1. Combine the yellow and brown mustard seeds in a small glass bowl. Top with the vinegar and beer, then cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours.

2. Transfer soaked seeds and all their liquid to a food processor, add the brown sugar (the more sugar you add the sweeter it will be) and pulse to desired consistency. Transfer to a glass container with a lid and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours, then transfer to the fridge for storage. The spread should last for several weeks.

SWWU Tip 1: Unfortunately, this dish is not something you can test too much along the way. It takes some time for the flavors to ripen and develop, but it’s well worth the wait. 

SWWU Tip 2: Craving a sweeter mustard? Try adding 1/4 cup honey along with the brown sugar before you blend everything together.

SWWU Tip 3: Play around with the amount of brown and yellow seeds. Yellow ones are a bit more mild, while the brown ones provide a pungent bite. Changing up the ratio of these ingredients will result in a completely different flavor profile. Mix it up and have fun!

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The Almost Neat to Messy Tipple

I love the first few sips of a nice bourbon or rye straight up. But, after my tongue has been tickled and my throat is warm, I get bored and need something a little more exciting. Enter: the almost neat to messy drink!

The Almost Neat to Messy Tipple by

The Almost Neat to Messy Tipple by

Simply make flavored cubes and pour your libation of choice over the top. The alcohol is chilled ever so slightly for the first few sips then, as the cubes melt, you get a slow release of flavor infusing your drink. To make the drink pictured above, we filled an ice cube tray with fresh apple cider and added two drops of orange bitters to each section, then froze until hard. Then we added the cubes to a glass (two for Brian and three for me) and poured a few ounces of Blanton’s over the top. Keep in mind that the more cubes you add to your glass, the more diluted your cocktail will be. Paired with some good company, this simple sipper can’t be beat. I think I’ll have another!

SWWU Tip 1: Unfortunately, this idea does take a bit of planning ahead. B and I like to whip of a big batch of cubes and keep them stored in the freezer to use whenever the mood strikes us.

SWWU Tip 2: Cider and other juices won’t freeze as quickly or as well as water. Make sure to put your ice cube trays in the coolest part of your freezer for best results. 

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