Fried Onion Dip

Source: Amy Thielen Food NetworkImage 36

When my mom let me know that a Minnesota native had a new show on the Food Network, I knew I had to tune in.  I immediately started up the DVR and recorded her show.  Amy Thielen has such a great demeanor and represents our state well.  She seems humble and cooks with fresh, local ingredients which can be challenging at times when the snow flies.  I was looking for a little inspiration for an appetizer to bring to a Octoberfest party I was attending.   While surfing online for a recipe, I caught up on her show, America’s heartland.  In the episode I was watching, she made this incredible looking Fried Onion Dip.  That was all the inspiration I needed, onion dip seemed like a perfect appetizer for the party.

I doubled the ingredients below and started cooking.  While frying the onions totally smoked out my house, it was worth it.  The dip received rave reviews at the party and was gobbled up right away.  It has a delicious rich, savory flavor and the onions are smokey and don’t overpower the dip.  It was excellent and can even be made ahead and refrigerated!  Enjoy.

What you need: **Recipe from the Food  NetworkImage 41

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter
  • 1 medium sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
  • Dash of cayenne pepper


  • First, clarify the butter so that you can fry the onions at high heat and put a very dark, almost burnt crust on them. (Clarify butter: Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat until it foams and browns. Remove from the heat. Tilt the skillet and carefully spoon off the foam, saving it in a small bowl. Pour the clear butter into another bowl, and pour the dark dregs at the bottom of the skillet into the bowl with the foam. Add the clear butter to a larger heavy skillet. Discard the butter foam and dregs.)
  • Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Fry the onions, flipping them now and then, until they’re dark on the edges, even black and crispy in spots, about 10 minutes.
    Image 40Image 39
  • Add the honey and garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the vermouth, bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  • Put the sour cream and cream cheese in a mixing bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth. Finely chop the fried onions on a cutting board and add them, along with their pan juices, to the cream cheese mixture. Stir in the chives. Add the cayenne and season with salt.
    Image 37Image 38
  • Transfer to a small bowl and garnish with more chives.
    Image 36

Ooohhh yeah, Crispy Spring Rolls

I grew up having home cooked meals and scheduled dinner time each night, it was awesome.  We had a lot of meat and potatoes, crock pot dishes, tacos, soups and pasta.  You can likely tell I am most comfortable cooking those types of meals from my previous posts.  When it comes to cooking Asian food, I am way out of my element.  Fish sauce, oyster sauce and mungbean noodles sound more like something out of a science fiction movie than something I would have in my cupboard.  With that said, I will absolutely house Asian food if put in front of me.  Pad Thai, cream cheese wonton and egg rolls are absolute heaven and I’m willing to pay a lot of money for them since I can’t make them at home.

When a friend approached me about taking a cooking class at the Kitchen Window called “Authentic Thai Appetizers”, I was in.  Whatever I could do to learn more about how to cook this type of cuisine was awesome.

The venue at the Kitchen Window is incredible and I would recommend it to anyone.  The class seemed a little spendy at $65 but we got hands on cooking experience and we got to eat it too.  We made Gai Satay, Cucumber Salad, Som Miang Kam, Neaua Daet Deow, Khao Neow and Nam Pla Prik.  Or in words that I understand: Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce; cucumber Salad; Crispy Spring Rolls; Ginger, Lime and Toasted Coconut Finger Salads with Sweet Shrimp Sauce and Sweet Crispy Beef with Coriander Seeds and stick rice.  It was AWESOME!

The class was presented by Joe Hatch-Surisook who is co-owner and Chef of sen yai sen lek out of Minneapolis.  And, drum roll please…we got the recipes!!!

My favorite was the crispy spring rolls and I actually followed through and made these for a party I went to.  They were a total hit, I mean like RAVE reviews 🙂

They are super time-consuming but if you are just sitting around watching TV or doing nothing, why not sit around and make something delish.  It made about 30 rolls and the chef did say you could freeze them.  I think next time I will make a batch and freeze them in portions for my husband and I!

Go ahead…give them a go 🙂

What you need for Filling:

  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 6 oz dried mungbean noodles, soaked in warm water until soft.  Drain and cut into 2-3 inch lengths (I just used a kitchen shears and started chopping at them in the bowl)
  • 2 eggs
  • 7-8 dried ear mushrooms, soaked in hot water until soft.  Drain and chop. (I omitted this item because I couldn’t find it.  I couldn’t even tell I didn’t add them in)
  • 2-3 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7-8 garlic gloves, chopped

Other things you need:

  • 1 package spring roll wrappers
  • Canola Oil for frying
  • 1 egg beaten for sealing rolls

What you do:

  • Combine all he filling ingredients except garlic and mix well (use your clean hands, way easier!)
  • In a skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat and stir fry garlic for 10 seconds
  • Add filling mixture and continue to stir fry until noodle and vegetables are fairly dry (you might need to do this in 2 batches if you don’t have a large enough pan).  Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Organize yourself by laying out filling, beaten egg, spring roll wrappers and a container to put them in.
  • To roll the spring rolls: Place a spring roll sheet in front of you with a corner pointed toward you.  Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the middle of the sheet.  Pull the bottom of the sheet up over the filling and tuck it under slightly.  Fold the sides toward the middle and tightly roll the spring roll away from you.  Moisten the edges with the egg and seal.  Set the finished roll aside in a pan seam side down.  Continue rolling until mixture and wrappers are finished.
  • To fry the spring rolls: Fill a deep pot of skillet with about 3 inches of oil and heat over high heat until oil reaches 375.  Fry the spring rolls in small batches until golden brown.  Remove and drain on a paper towel and serve with sweet chili sauce.

What you need for the Sweet Chili Sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic chili sauce

What you do:

  • Bring ingredients to a boil.  Reduce heat.  Allow to simmer 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

P.S: This is what my husband thought about the Crispy Spring Rolls.  He says he reads my blog and he also says I can’t use pictures of him.  Especially pictures of him in the Carhartt gear at the cabin.  TESTING TESTING: Honey, if you read this blog I’ll take your picture down 🙂  Love you!

Heirloom tomato caprese salad

What’s my inspiration?

There is a tiny stand at the VFW in Forest Lake, MN.  The ladies at the stand are absolutely hilarious.  I mainly go there for the incredible heirloom tomatoes, but they also have corn, cucumber, jalapeno, onion, garlic and lots of other garden fresh goodness.  Oh, and they have jokes.  The ladies who run the stand have their own farm and are so passionate about their food, specifically the tomatoes.  Before I went there for the first time last year, I thought heirloom tomatoes looked nasty. I mean come on, they are black, orange, green and every color in between.  It looked more like you should use them for a tomato fight.  We were enlightened by these women who let us taste the tomatoes and turned sceptics into fans.  They are super meaty (aka minimal seeds), very flavorful and come with stories.  Yes, stories.  They all have history behind how they came to be (seeds from other farmers which are crossed with their tomato seeds, etc.).  Some of them have been around for decades!  I had no idea.

My favorite way to eat them is in a simple caprese salad.  Some of the heirlooms have such unique color which gives this classic salad a little twist.  And since they are so delicious, I like to present them in a much fancier way, sliced and layers with fresh mozzarella cheese.

If  you have the chance to pick some of these up, please do so.  You won’t regret it.

What is an heirloom tomatoes?  Learn more here on the ever so reliable Wikipedia.

What you need:

  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes – thick slices
  • Large ball fresh mozzarella cheese – thick slices
  • Fresh basil – Julienne
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

What you do:

  • Simply layer tomato and mozzarella alternating until gone
  • Sprinkle basil over everything
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and a little EVOO
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste

Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms…OH YEAH!

Source: Southern Food 

What’s my inspiration:
Come on….doesn’t the title say it all?  Bacon AND cream cheese in one mind-blowing appetizer?  Yum–eee!  These bite sized appetizers are quick easy and crowd pleasing.  We even ended up cooking them in a tin foil pan on the grill verse in the oven.  Give this a try for New Year’s Eve, you won’t be disappointed, I promise!

What you need:

  • 1 pound medium fresh mushrooms
  • 4 Bacon slices diced
  • 1/2 cup minced onion, or use part green onion
  • 2 tablespoons Minced fresh green pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Pepper
  • 3 ounces Cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs, plain
  • 1/4 cup Hot water

What you do:

  • Pre-heat oven or grill to 325 degrees.
  • Clean mushrooms, remove and chop stems; set aside.
  • Fry bacon in a heavy skillet. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain.
  • In bacon drippings, saute onion, green pepper, and chopped mushroom stems until tender; drain. Add salt and pepper.
  • Soften cream cheese; blend in cooked bacon and vegetables.
  • Press mixture firmly into mushroom caps, mounding a bit.
  • Place bread crumbs in a small bowl. Turn filled mushroom caps upside down and press gently in the bread crumbs to coat tops.
  • Place in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish.
  • Add hot water to pan and bake (or grill), uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes or until mushrooms are soft.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen stuffed mushrooms.

Pumpkin Puke, I mean guacamole

What’s my inspiration?

Halloween Party calls for Halloween inspired appetizers right?  Yes!  I didn’t want to bring anything too fancy, so I kept it simple with an amazing guacamole with a spooky twist.  The spooky twist you ask?  you guessed in, I made it look like a pumpkin was puking it up.  Adorable?  Maybe not.  But certainly a cute way to put a little gore into it.  

What you need:

  • 4 ripe avocados – pit removed and scooped out of shell
  • 1 large jalapeno –  seeds removed & finely diced
  • 1/2 sweet pepper – diced (I used orange, looked like the pumpkins insides!)
  • 1/2 onion – diced
  • 2 teaspoons cilantro – chopped (You can omit if you don’t like cilantro)
  • 1 lime 
  • 1-2 tblsp worcestershire
  • Salt & Pepper to taste 
What you do: 

  • Mix all ingredients together making sure avocado is fully smashed up.  It’s OK if there are some chunks left.  Especially to make it look like real puke 🙂  Yummy!
  • Enjoy with chips (I used black tortilla chips) 

Tequila Lime Cajun Shrimp

What’s my inspiration?

Isn’t a bag of shrimp and an open mind enough inspiration sometimes?  I grabbed a bunch of ingredients in my cupboard, threw them together and whala!  A quick and easy seafood dish.

BTW, the urban dictionary definition of “whala” totally cracked me up: “a bastardized english version of the French word “voila” meaning “there it is”.  Often used by morons in an attempt to sound more intelligent than they actually are.”  Guess I’m a moron 🙂  Fine by me.  Maybe I should have titled this post Morons version of Tequila Lime Cajun Shrimp!

What you need:

  • 1 pound shrimp – raw and de-veined (shell on or off)
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 oz Jose Cuervo Tequila 
  • 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning – I like Coastal Seafoods version
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
What you do:
  • In a large zip lock bag, combine all ingredients and shake until shrimp is covered
  • Marinate up to 2 hours
  • Skewer shrimp
  • Grill 2-3 minutes per side or until just pink (cook time will vary based on how large the shrimp are.  Do not over cook or shrimp will get tough and chewy)

Salsa Negra with Chipotle

Source: Food & Wine by Rick Bayless

What’s my inspiration?

Surprise, surprise…another food and wine magazine recipe. The only reason I actually made this was so I could make Shrimp with Spicy Chipotle Tomato Sauce. Turns out, it made more than I needed for that recipe and the extra sauce was UNREAL when added to ground beef for taco’s or as a steak marinade.  Next time, I plan to double or triple this recipe, freeze it in ice cube trays and use it whenever I want.  Give it a whirl, its fab!

This can be made and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

What you need:

  • 3/4 cup chipotles in adobo sauce (from a 7-ounce can)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses, preferably unsulfured
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

What you do:

  • In a blender, combine the chipotle chiles with the molasses, balsamic vinegar, dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup of the water. Blend until the mixture is smooth.
  • Strain the sweet chipotle puree through a fine strainer into a small saucepan, pressing on the solids with a spatula to extract as much of the puree as possible.
  • Simmer the chipotle sauce over moderately low heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof rubber spatula, until it is very thick, pasty and reduced to 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes. Remove the salsa from the heat. Stir in the soy sauce and remaining 1/4 cup of water. Serve the salsa negra hot or at room temperature.