Thursday, September 23, 2010

Caramelized Onion Dip

Some of you may remember my love affair with Vidalia Onion dip last summer. Well, I have a new obsession. Same basic concept- cheese, onions, and more cheese. But with one tiny change, this dip has changed my life. Dramatic? I think not.

I fully realize that it’s hard to mess up a dip with three (you heard me, THREE) packages of cream cheese, so I suppose I should give Philadelphia most the credit. But I digress…

WARNING: This is not your average “powder in a packet” onion dip. Cooked over low heat for about an hour, the sweet, deeply caramelized onions add a new dimension of flavor to this creamy dip. The Havarti doesn’t hurt, either. My family was still talking about how good it was three days later. Serve with Ritz crackers (or some crusty bread- you know how I like my carbs) for your Game Day fun this weekend. You won’t be disappointed!

Caramelized Onion Dip

1 Tbsp. butter
3 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 8oz package Havarti cheese
2 large onions, thinly sliced
Salt and Sugar, to taste
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I always use Hellman’s)
Ritz Crackers to crumble on top (optional)


Melt the butter over medium heat and add onions. Cook the onions for about 10-15 minutes, until softened, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle some salt and sugar (which helps the caramelization process) and stir. Lower heat and cook onions another 30-45 minutes, until deeply browned and caramelized. The trick is to leave them alone long enough to start browning, but then stir before they burn. Just be sure to keep an eye on them throughout.

Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Havarti and onions, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Before heating, crumble Ritz crackers over the top. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and bake about 25-30 minutes, until bubbly.

You might just want to make a whole batch for yourself. No judgement here. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Birmingham Restaurant Week

The first-EVER Birmingham Restaurant Week is officially here! Well ok, it actually starts tomorrow…but last night, Birmingham foodies were in full-force at the Preview Party at Hotel Highland (benefiting Railroad Park, opening Saturday!) where participating restaurants gave us just a taste of what we have to look forward to. And Birmingham, we are in for a treat.

Folks from Jinsei, making the magic happen - Mini Kadoma Tuna

I just have to say how much it made my YEAR when I saw the announcement on Twitter that Birmingham was launching it’s first Restaurant Week. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the same event in a few different cities, and had literally JUST been thinking to myself, “With all of our amazing chefs and restaurants here, why don’t we have our own?”

Dream. Come. True.

Not only is this an INCREDIBLE opportunity to experience our fine-dining gems, such as Bottega or Highlands, for an amazing price (that was my pitch to Husband, too), but you also have an excuse to finally check out those casual eateries you’ve been hearing about but never tried. With three-course menus offered at $10.10, $20.10 and $30.10, there is no better way to experience our food scene.

As for me, I am currently mapping my “plan of attack” (i.e. dinner at Little Savannah Wednesday, Highlands Friday, perhaps a few lunch dates scattered in the middle) with blog posts to follow. Good thing I’ve been saving up! Now if only I could keep from gaining 30 pounds…

Be sure to check out the official 2010 Birmingham Restaurant Week website for more details and menus from participating restaurants. NOTE: Perusing menus is likely to induce sever bouts of hunger and/or salivating over your keyboard. You have been warned.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Favorite Game-Day Snacks

In the South, football is part of our culture (there’s a reason the SEC is the best). In Alabama, it defines you (FACT: First question you’ll be asked when you arrive in Birmingham is “Are you for Auburn or Alabama?”). In Auburn (yes, I know I’m outnumbered), it’s your LIFE. At least for the first four months of the school year…

For me, football is yet another way to enjoy great food with great friends. Nothing beats curling up on the couch with some yummy snacks, a cold beer, and a big TV (all the better for yelling, my dear).

Husband and I will be spending Labor Day weekend at the lake with the WHOLE family (bless his heart, he’s the lone Alabama fan), so I’m already planning the delicious food that will accompany our day ‘o football.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
I first made this dip for the SEC Championship game last December. It lasted MAYBE 10 minutes. It’s everything you want in a Game-Day snack - the delicious combination of spicy wings and cool Ranch dressing, without all the mess. There are several great recipes out there, but this version from the blog “Woman, Wine and Song” is my favorite.

Ultimate Spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip
Adapted from Adrienne Bailey, Mary England and Susie Cromer Clements

1 cup Ranch dressing
¾ cup chopped red onion
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded OR one rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 cup of your favorite wing sauce (I like local favorite, Moore’s Buffalo Wing Sauce)
2 cups shredded Cheddar
Tortilla Chips and celery for dipping

1. Saute red onion in butter until tender (about 10 minutes); remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, combine chicken, hot sauce, cream cheese, half of shredded cheddar and sauted onions.
3. Mix thoroughly and pour into baking dish.
4. Sprinkle remaining cheddar on top.
5. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly.
6. Serve with tortilla chips and celery (and a cold beer!).

Black Bean, Corn and Feta Dip
With temps still in the high 90′s (come on Fall weather…), a cold, refreshing dip is also a great choice for the first Game Day of the season (a nice side for your Labor Day picnics, too).

* Adapted from Martha Reiser, AU Alum website

1 can black beans
1 can corn, shoepeg
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1. Combine black beans, corn, feta, olive oil, sugar and cider vinegar in a bowl.
2. Toss and serve with tortilla chips or Fritos.
*This dip gets better the longer it sits.

Roast Beef and Havarti Sandwiches
This fabulous recipe from Southern Living is a welcome twist on the tried-and-true Ham and Poppyseed Sandwiches. With the creamy Havarti, sweet peach preserves and crunchy walnuts, these are truly addicting (definitely my most-requested hors d’oeuvres!). Bonus: Perfect “make- ahead” snack. Stick a few batches in the fridge on Game Day and heat as needed.

photo from

*Recipe from Southern Living, December 2008
Yield: Makes 12 to 16 servings


1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 (9.25-oz.) packages dinner rolls (I use Rainbo Dinner Rolls)
2/3 cup peach preserves
1/2 cup mustard-mayonnaise blend (i.e. Hellman’s Dijonnaise)
3/4 pound thinly sliced deli roast beef, chopped
1/2 pound thinly sliced Havarti cheese
Salt and pepper (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Heat walnuts in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant.
3. Remove rolls from packages. (Do not separate rolls.) Cut rolls in half horizontally, creating 1 top and 1 bottom per package. Spread preserves on cut sides of top of rolls; sprinkle with walnuts. Spread mustard-mayonnaise blend on cut sides of bottom of rolls; top with roast beef and cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Cover with top halves of rolls, preserves sides down, and wrap in aluminum foil.
4. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Slice into individual sandwiches. Serve immediately.

Now all you need is some icy cold beer and good company, and you are ready for a full day of football-watching.