Down, Set…Dip! Two Great Dips for Game Day

Last fall we hosted a contest to find the Perfect Party Dip, and Jean Eppler’s cleverly-named “Cranberries Gone Wild Dip” took home the title. With its ubiquitous appearance this past holiday party season, our voters clearly picked a winner; however, just three votes separated the top three party dip contestants.

While Jean’s dip spoke to the season with its festive Christmas colors and seasonal main ingredient (cranberries are out of season now, and can only be found frozen), our runners-up are perfect for the ultimate DIP-APALOOZA, otherwise known as Superbowl Sunday.

What makes Peggy Fisher’s Hot Beef Taco Dip (Fargo, ND) and Sherre Sattler’s Jalapeno Popper Dip (Grand Forks, ND) ideal for this occasion?  While completely different from each other, they are both hot dips, as in, they are kept warm throughout serving. And with the recent low temperatures, outside and even indoors this week, a hot dip is definitely the way to go on Sunday. Plus, the game is being played outdoors at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and we anticipate that we’ll probably even feel cold just watching the action. (Although right now the forecast predicts a balmy 37 degrees with light rain – that’s a walk in the park for our hearty lot here in the Upper-Midwest.)

Next, both dips are easy to make, and this is important because we don’t think you’ll be able to choose between the two, so why not serve them both? We also love that they can both be made the day before and refrigerated until ready to bake.

Of course, taste is probably most important, and these dips creatively embody the flavors of two highly popular party foods:  tacos and jalapeno poppers.

Peggy Fisher’s Hot Beef Taco Dip is wonderfully hearty and offers the classic taco flavors of seasoned ground beef, melted cheddar cheese, sour cream and tomatoes. In her recipe submission, Peggy said, “Old, young and in between LOVE this easy and satisfying dip,” and the comments we received last fall at our tasting events confirmed this opinion. People are attracted to Peggy’s dip because it is colorful and appealing in appearance, and they keep coming back for more because it tastes so darn good. Peggy serves her dip with Tostito Scoops chips, and even recommends leaving recipe cards on display next to the dip for guests to take.

Sherre Sattler’s Jalapeno Popper Dip was a terrific surprise. When I first received this recipe entry, I was intrigued by its name, but doubted that it could really live up to the flavors of this popular appetizer. But it does. This creamy concoction of cream cheese, mayonnaise (did I really just say that?), canned green chilies and jalapeno peppers, and parmesan cheese is topped with panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs, butter and more parmesan cheese, and the result is almost embarrassingly delicious. Sherre recommends serving her dip with bagel chips, Ritz crackers, or baguette slices, but tortilla chips will also work well.

You can use a chafing dish to keep each dip warm throughout the party, but to be honest, we don’t expect them to stay on your party table for long. We’ve mentioned three distinctively different dips for you to feature at your Superbowl party this Sunday, but feel free to check out the Superbowl Party section on our blog at for more great ideas. Have fun this Sunday, and just in case you’re wondering who Tony is rooting for he wanted me to leave you with this clue: Omaha!

 

Angel Food Update…

We’ve had a terrific response to our column and post on Angel Food Cake, and it seems that many of you plan to make our recipe but need a little more clarification to get started.We want to make sure you are well-prepared to make your own angel food cake from scratch, so here’s a little more information to help you on your way.

QUESTION #1: What the heck kind of measurement is “M, cup”???

What? Didn’t you go to culinary school? How can you not know this? We just assumed that everyone knew what an M, cup is.
Initially, the online version of our recipe on InForum.com listed the first sugar measurement as “M, cup granulated sugar,” and we are grateful to the many of you who contacted us to find out what this cryptic code actually meant. Turns out, the website’s software has a difficult time reading uncommon fractions, and let’s face it: there is nothing common about the fraction 7/8. The measurement has been amended and is now correct in the online recipe. Thank you, thank you, for asking – there are no dumb questions, just dumb software programs. :)

QUESTION #2: You have sugar listed twice in the ingredients. Is this an error?

We can completely understand how one could think this, especially with the hullaballoo that darn “M, cup” created. But the answer is YES, there are two separate sugar measurements in the recipe. This is on purpose, because the first batch of sugar (7/8 cup) will be sifted in with the flour and set aside until later. The second batch of sugar (3/4 cup) will be whipped in with the egg whites. This is detailed in the directions of the recipe, too, so you’ll know exactly when to use which batch of sugar. Now, can someone tell us Who’s on First? :)

QUESTION #3: Where can I find an aluminum angel food pan like the one you wrote about?

About a dozen of our readers have contacted us to find out where they can purchase an aluminum angel food tube pan, a task which has turned out to be more challenging than I expected.

In the Fargo-Moorhead area, I found them in stock at Culinex, a local restaurant supply store located at 1802 1st Ave S. in Fargo. They are available in the store for $18 and you can stop in anytime between 8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. I also called Scheels Home & Hardware, Creative Kitchen, and Bed Bath & Beyond, but none of these stores carried the aluminum style.

You can find an aluminum angel food tube pan all over the internet, and right now these are the two I would recommend at Amazon.com:

 “Nordic Ware 2 Piece Angel Food Pan with Cooling Feet” for $14.99 + free shipping for Amazon Prime members – price and free shipping status are current as of 1/17/14 and subject to change.

OR

 

 “Wilton Angel Food Pan” for $11.47 + 5.99 for shipping. Prices is current as of 1/17/14 and subject to change.

We absolutely love, love, love to hear from our readers, so if you have any more questions or comments about angel food cake, or any of our recipes, please let us know! You can comment here on the blog, via email to dine@sarellos.com, on our Facebook Page or via Twitter to @sarahnasello and/or @thelostitalian.

CLICK HERE for the RECIPE for Angel Food Cake

 

Peppermint Bark: An Easy, Last-Minute Holiday Treat

This week on North Dakota Today, Tony and our nine-year-old son Giovanni demonstrate how to make one of our favorite holiday treats, Peppermint Bark.

Peppermint Bark is the very first treat we make to kick off the holiday baking season, and Gio and I have been making it together since he was two years old, just like my mom did when I was growing up. This is a great recipe to try with kids as it’s easy, affordable, and basically foolproof.

There are only three ingredients: a dozen candy canes, vanilla almond bark, and peppermint extract. There have been many occasions where Gio and I have forgotten to add the peppermint extract, but the result is still minty and delicious. See? You really can’t mess this one up.

We make several batches of Peppermint Bark to give away as gifts to friends, family, teachers, and others who touch our lives throughout the holiday season. We love that this recipe can be made well in advance of serving (up to at least a month), and we use cookie tins lined with wax paper to keep it fresh.

Small tins or cellophane gift bags work well for Peppermint Bark gifts, and we like to attach a customized label to make the gift extra special. I am always surprised by how much good will this simple treat creates – people are so pleased to receive this gift. If you’re still looking for a Christmas gift idea, why not make a batch or two yourself f before the holiday?

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Peppermint Bark

Serves:  Many

Ingredients:
1 pkg vanilla almond bark
12 candy canes, regular size (not the small canes)
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract

Instructions:
Blend the candy canes in a food processor until desired texture is achieved. We prefer to blend them until all large pieces are crushed, and the mixture is just a little grainier than sugar. ***This step is the “special something” that makes this peppermint bark soooo delicious.

Melt the almond bark in the microwave according to the instructions on the package, or in a sauce pan over medium-low heat, until all lumps are gone. Remove from heat and stir in the peppermint extract first, then the crushed candy canes until thoroughly mixed.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and pour the bark mixture onto the sheet, smoothing out to reach all edges. Once all the bark has been transferred, lift the sheet up with both hands and gently bang it down on the counter a few times to smooth out the mixture. Place in a refrigerator or cold place and allow to set until completely hard, at least one hour.

When bark is hardened, peel from waxed paper and break into pieces (like toffee or peanut brittle). Store in an airtight container until gone.

Our Holiday Heritage Contest Semi-Finalists Are…

Between the frenzy of holiday activity and a recent bout of the flu at our house, the past week was kind of a blur for the Nasellos. Luckily, Sunday and Monday were a bit more benevolent to us.

Tony, Gio and I spent all day Sunday poring over the recipe/story entries in our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest in an effort to declare which contestants would be moving on to our semifinal round for further adjudication. We send forth a collective “thank you” to all of you who have entrusted us with your special holiday recipes and stories – what a gift this experience has been to our family. You have filled us to the brim with the holiday spirit.

We read each recipe and story together, each of us rating and ranking them by story, photograph and recipe. Some stories were read twice, or even three times, and we all found our favorites.

Photographs were highly encouraged, though not required, for entry, and we found this tool most helpful in narrowing down our top contenders. Christmastime is a visual feast in so many ways, and many of you were clever enough to include a photo with your entry.

Holy cow, was this ever a difficult task for us! We each found ourselves personally identifying with certain stories, licking our lips at particular photos of sweet confections, and silently, or in many cases NOT so silently, rooting for our favorites.

We whittled down the list to about a dozen recipes, and spent Sunday evening and all day Monday testing them so that we could make an informed decision when determining which recipes would advance to the semifinal private tasting round tonight. I don’t think my kitchen has ever smelled so heavenly.

After hours of rating, ranking, debating and defending our favorite choices, we finally reached a consensus. Without further fanfare, we are pleased to present our Semifinalists, in no particular order:

Once the tasting has concluded this evening, we will announce which contestants will be moving into the Final Round for the public to vote online and decide who will be the lucky winner of this brand-new, gorgeous Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

Final Round Voting will be open to the public here on the blog only starting on Wednesday, Dec. 18 and will remain open until 10:00 PM on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. The winner will be announced online both on the blog and at www.inforum.com, and in the printed edition of The Forum on Christmas Day, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013.

Thank you to everyone who has shared their special heritage recipe and story with us, and good luck to all of our semifinalists!