Homemade French Onion Dip

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
On Libbie: Cuisine Apron Dress in White Linen from Yum Yum Smile Shop
Gingham Napkin: Yachtie Linen Napkin Set from Yum Yum Smile Shop

I had a nostalgic craving…for French Onion Dip. So, I made some and then I made it again and again! The BIG flavor tip is patience. Be patient while caramelizing your onions -don’t rush them.

Slow and steady wins this flavor race. 

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Homemade French Onion Dip
makes 2 cups

What you need:
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups diced yellow onions (about 1 1/2 medium onions)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
4 shakes hot sauce
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
Ridged sturdy potato chips for dipping (I used Ruffles®)

What to do:
1. Caramelize Onions: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add butter, onions, pepper, salt, onion powder and hot sauce. Cook, stirring about every 5 minutes, until rich and brown in color (about 25-30 minutes). Allow to cool.
2. Finish Dip: In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream until combined. Don’t worry about a few lumps! Fold in cooled onions.

To Serve: Serve room temperature alongside sturdy potato chips!
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Ginger Scallion Meatballs

By Libbie Summers (recipe inspired by Epicurious)

This ain’t your Italian meatball! Minimal ingredients, full of delicious flavor, overly moist, gluten free and on the table in under 20 minutes. Use them as a main dish or appetizer with a simple sweet and sour sauce.
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Ginger Scallion Meatballs
makes 16

What you need:
1 pound ground fresh pork
1 egg
6 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely minced pickled ginger (sushi ginger), can substitute 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
2. In a large wooden bowl, stir together the fresh pork, egg, scallion, pickled ginger, ONLY 1 tablespoon oil and salt. 3. Stir mixture together pretty vigorously until it has lightened in color and shaggy (about 3 minutes).
3. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over a baking sheet. Working one at a time, use a small portion scoop or heaping tablespoon to scoop out portions and roll into balls; arrange on the prepared baking sheet.
4. Bake meatballs until cooked through and browned on top, 8–10 minutes. 5. Serve warm as an appetizer with a simple Sweet and Sour Sauce or as a main course over jasmine rice with a Spinach Curry Sauce (recipe below).
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Spinach Curry Sauce

What you need: 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup store-bought or homemade Thai green curry paste
1 (5.4-oz.) can coconut cream
1 (5 oz.) container baby spinach
Juice from one lime

What to do: 
1. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add oil, onions and salt. Cook, stirring until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). 2. Stir in curry paste and cook for 1 minute.
3. Stir in coconut cream and bring to a low boil.
4. Stir in spinach and cook, stirring until spinach is wilted.
5. Transfer mixture to a blender and puree until smooth.
6. Add in lime juice and pulse until combined.

 

Animal Cookie Party Favors

By Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong (as seen in Country Living Magazine, May 2020)

I like to send off guests at the end of a party with something whimsical, delicious and homemade. Usually the delicousness is found inside a tin and it’s always worthy of a smile. These cheeky and nostalgic animal cookies were packed inside decorated Altoids tins. Perfect for holding 4 small cookies and a note. PRO TIP: Make sure to soak the tins in a cleaning solution first or your cookies will taste and smell like Peppermint…or wintergreen.

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The Only Sugar Cookie Recipe You Will Ever Need
(makes 3-9 dozen cookies depending on the cutter size)

What you need: 
3 cups all-purpose flour (more for bench flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup sugar (I use vanilla sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (can substitute 1/4 teaspoon bubblegum extract)
Sprinkles (optional for dough)
Royal Icing (recipe to follow)
Nonpareil sprinkle mix for decorating (I used a mix of pastel colored nonpareils, you only need about 3 tablespoons total)

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and extracts.
4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. The dough may be stiff…this is okay! PRO TIP: at this point you can stir in 2-3 tablespoons of sprinkles to your dough.
5. Do not chill the dough, just get right into it! Lightly flour a work surface and cut off enough dough to be workable. Roll out to a 1/4-inch thickness and cut shapes with your cookie cutters. Place on the prepared baking trays and bake for 6-8 minutes.
6. Allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Royal Frosting
(makes 3 cups)

What you need: 
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoons powdered egg whites (or meringue powder)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)

What to do:
In a large bowl, stir together sugar, water and meringue powder until completely mixed. Adjust as needed for consistency. Add a bit more water if too thick and a bit more powdered sugar if too thin. Tint with food coloring if desired. Cover until read to use.
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Gift Tins
1. Thoroughly wash and soak tins (if you are upcycling an old Altoid’s tin) to get the minty smell out.
2. Cut 2 pieces of scrap paper or paper napkins the size of the lid.
3. Using Rubber Cement or Modge Podge, glue the pieces of paper to the outside and inside lid.
4. Trim edge with any fun trim. I used a wee pom pom trim.
5. Cut a piece of parchment or tissue paper for the inside and fill with your treats!

Adult Tuna Melt

By Libbie Summers

What started out as cheap mundane dorm fuel before parties has become a fancy adult lunch sandwich when made with layers of flavor that I couldn’t have appreciated at 18. 

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Adult Tuna Melt
Serves 1

What you need: 
1 thick slice of rustic bread
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle powder (can sub adobo sauce or hot sauce)
1 (5 ounce) can tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, hand grated on large grate
1 cup mixed greens
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Drizzle of olive oil
Flake sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

What to do:
Preheat broiler.
Place slice of bread on a baking sheet and slather with butter. Broil until just browned around the edges.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and chipotle powder.
Spread spicy mayonnaise over bread.
Top with tuna.
Top Tuna with grated cheese.
Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Top with greens. Squeeze lemon juice over greens. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a dash of salt and pepper.
Serve hot!

Pro Tip: If I have a red onion on hand, I will shave a few pieces and caramelize them in a pan with butter. Then top the tuna with them before adding the cheese. It’s a delightful surprise inside!

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Pork Carnitas

By Libbie Summers
Recipe by Pati Jinich (with a couple of tweaks)

I’ve been making carnitas since as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until the blizzard that hit New York City in January 2016 (when I made Pati Jinich’s recipe) that I upped my carnitas game. I was in NYC food styling a shoot for Better Homes and Gardens for their May issue (we were working 3 months in advance) and we were featuring Pati’s recipes from her new book. This was one of them…and it changed my life forever. Just the addition of one or two ingredients and a whole new world opens up. It’s easy, it’s affordable, it feeds a crowd and it’s damn near impossible to beat. 

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Pork Carnitas
serves 8

What you need: 
1/2 a white onionpeeled and coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic
*1/2 whole jalapeno (cut lengthwise) *my addition
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cumin
4 whole clovesstems removed *(I used 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)
1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea saltor to taste
1 tablespoon lardvegetable shortening or oil
4 to 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder or buttcut into 4-inch chunks, fat on!
Kosher or flake sea salt
2 bay leaves
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
Corn tortillas, charred for serving
Salsa verde, for serving (optional)
Radish, cut into matchsticks for serving (optional)
Cilantro, chopped for serving (optional)

What to do: 

In the jar of a blender, place the 1 1/2 cups water, onion, *jalapeno, garlic cloves, marjoram, thyme, black pepper, cumin, cloves and 1 tablespoon salt. Puree until smooth.
Set a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the lard (or vegetable shortening or oil), and once it has heated up, add the pork chunks and sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Brown the meat on all sides, stirring and flipping as each side browns, about 10 minutes.
Pour the onion mixture over the meat, let it come to a simmer and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Pour in the orange juice and sweetened condensed milk, add the 2 bay leaves, and give it a good stir. Let it come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low to low and cover.
Cook covered, stirring and scrapping the bottom of the casserole 2 to 3 times along the way, until the meat is completely cooked and coming easily apart if you pull one piece, about one hour and a half (this took 2 1/2 to 3 hours for me). Remove the lid, cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Scoop out the carnitas with a slotted spoon, leaving any fat behind, and serve in a bowl or platter. Shred with a fork, if desired, before tucking into tacos. Or do like we do, serve straight from the pot.
To Serve: Serve warm with charred tortillas and cilantro, salsa verde and radish on the side.
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