Secret Family Recipes

Do you have a secret family recipe? You know, a tried and true dish that is such a crowd pleaser you just can’t bring yourself to share.  I have several recipes that fall into this category.

1) Corn Dip.  I have to admit the recipe for corn dip is sadly not mine to share.  We are going to have to work Mia over before I can give away this crowned jewel.  Corn dip has been our most carefully guarded family recipe for over 25 years.  Many have tried to replicate this delicious madness, but none to full success.  Corn Dip is a summer crowd pleaser, so if we start a campaign now begging Mia’s permission perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll be allowed to share our corn dip recipe with you in the future.  No promises.

2) Tres Leches.  This is my most requested cake recipe.  It should really be called cinqo leches because it calls for five kinds of milk. The moist, perfectly sweetened cake is mouth watering, pan licking good.  I make it for Easter and when someone near and dear to me requests.  But first they have to beg, bribe, and prove they love me for ME and not just my Tres Leches.

3) Hot Onion Souffle. Hands down this is the biggest crowd pleaser appetizer.  I served hot onion souffle at my little sister’s wedding a couple weeks ago and one of our guests actually requested the recipe for ‘that delicious vegetable dish’.  Trust me, this hot gooey dip does not in any way qualify as a vegetable serving, but I’m glad it was (as always) well received.

In the spirit of sharing, I am going to break into The Schell Cafe vault and give you the Hot Onion Souffle recipe today.  Because it’s Christmas.  And I love and appreciate each of you for coming back to my little blog so faithfully.

The recipe is not really mine. It comes from one of my favorite cookbooks The Dallas Dish.

This is a more recent (2005) publication of the Dallas Junior League, and I truly love it.  Maybe because I was born and raised in Dallas and these recipes seem so familiar.  Or maybe just because they are all just so darned good.  Who knows? But, if you can get your hands on this cookbook, it’s well worth it.  Or just keep coming back to the cafe for more…

See, there it is in black and white.  The coveted recipe that I’ve held secret and falsely as my own.  You’ll forgive me as soon as you take your first bite!

If you can’t (for some reason unrelated to age) see the fine print in this photo, here’s the recipe.

Hot Onion Souffle

Dallas Dish, page 57

1 (12-ounce) package frozen chopped onions, thawed

1 small onion, chopped

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups (8 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pat the frozen onions dry with a paper towel.  Combine the thawed frozen onions, 1 small chopped onion, cream cheese, parmesan and mayo in a bowl.  Mix well so there are no large clumps of cream cheese.

Spoon onion mixture into a baking dish and bake for 20-30 minutes or until heated through.  Serve with assorted party crackers.  Serves 25.

I served Hot Onion Souffle last night as an appetizer for 4 adults and 8 children.  First, it doesn’t serve 25 people.  Or at least not normal folks.  If you are serving a large crowd, this recipe doubles easy.  I always serve the dip with Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers (which are really just thick cookies!).  But, my dear friend Mrs. Kravitz informed me last night that Carr’s crackers are too heavy for the amazing dip. She prefers tostada chips.  Husband suggested thin water crackers.  I’m not sure it really matters what you serve  with the Hot Onion Souffle.  The result will be the same: an empty bowl and full bellies.

For as many times as I’ve made and served Hot Onion Souffle, sadly I do not have any photos.  I snapped a few while I was preparing the dip yesterday, but they just don’t do the dish justice.  Here’s all I have as proof.

Two bites worth.  One for me and one for Mrs. Kravitz who will be here soon for the last bite her Littles.  We scraped the bowl last night in anticipation of the final savor today.

So what are your secret family recipes!?!?


Christmas Appetizers

One of the countless tips I’ve learned from Mia is to always have a tasty treat to offer friends who stop by for a visit.  Of Mia’s many talents, the Lord gave her the gift of Hospitality (x2!).  She is the most gracious hostess I have ever known.

Since this is clearly the season for friends to drop-in & pop-in, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite savory snacks to have on hand. These are easy appetizers to make ahead and tasty enough that you might just find your friends coming ’round more often.

Nana’s Cheese Straws

Make a double batch of these yummy cheese wafers and keep ’em in your freezer.  Ten minutes in a 410 degree oven and you’ll have a warm bite with a kick to offer friends.

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp red pepper (I like more for a kick!)

1 stick margarine (do not use butter)

Sift the flour, salt, and pepper.  Combine with cheese and margarine.  Form long rolls, wrap in wax paper and chill over night, or freeze.  When ready to serve, slice frozen dough into 1/2 inch thick wafers and bake for 10 minutes at 410 degrees.

Rosemary Cashews

These rosemary infused nuts are just perfect.  I make them often! If you are lucky enough to end up with a few extra, toss them in a salad for a yummy crunch.

1 lb roasted, unsalted cashews

2 Tbs minced, fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp light brown sugar (I use a bit more)

1 Tbs kosher salt (I use less)

2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the cashews out on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven until warm, 5 – 10 minutes.

Add melted butter to large bowl and stir in sugar and spices.  Toss warm cashews and stir to coat.

These nuts are great served right out of the oven, but they keep for a week in a sealed container.  Let me know if they last that long in your house!

Dried Okra

This is one of my very favorite prepared ‘tizers. I know what you are thinking.  Dried okra? No way.  Trust me they are out of this world yummy and every.single.person who has tasted them at our house has been pleasantly surprised.  I serve them in a fun tall glass, then step back to watch for the ah-ha moment to appear on happy faces.

I pick up my stash of dried okra at Central Market.  And I spied a similar version at Trader Joe’s last summer in California.  My HEB has a packaged brand, although I have not tried it.

Keep your eyes peeled and if you stumble upon dried okra, grab it! You’ll be thrilled and your friends will be too.

Cheese Straws

One of the most shocking entries on my calendar occurred on August 8th.  The entry at the top of the day read: make cheese straws/freeze for Christmas.

I’m not sure what moonshine I was sippin’ when I added this event to my calendar, but rest assured August 8th came and went sans cheese straws.

In my defense, I actually remember adding this task to my calendar last year. I was in the throws of the holidays and wished I had planned better by freezing things like cornbread for the dressing, gingerbread dough for cookie decorating, and appetizer essentials like cheese straws. So I planned ahead and scheduled cheese straw production for the dog days of summer.

To further my own defense, I also remember laughing out loud on August 8th.  Cheese straws did not get made that hot, summer day.

But, since I find myself quarantined home again this month, week, morning I thought I’d make use of my time and make cheese straws for Christmas. My sick Little seems to have shaken the swine, but not ready to return to school.

Cheese straws have been in my family longer than I have.  The simple recipe comes from Mia’s mother’s best friend Ellen.  I’ve always called them Nana’s cheese straws after my grandmother, but apparently her neighbor should get the credit.  I’m sure Mia could share more history of these must-have holiday bites. Maybe she can also fill us in on why they are called cheese straws as they are really tiny wafers.

Truly nothing could be more simple to make than these savory bites.  Since I was blessed with two additional hands this morning, we doubled the batch and made plenty to freeze.

Nana’s Cheese Straws

2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated

1 cup flour (it’s spelled flower on the original recipe! Don’t you love that?)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp red pepper (I use a bit more for extra heat)

1 stick margarine (do not use butter)

Sift flour (or flower), salt and pepper.  Combine with cheese and margarine.  Form into long rolls, wrap in wax paper and chill over night.  Slice. Bake 10 minutes at 410 degrees.


I know it seems archaic, but please grate the cheese for this recipe.  And be sure to use sharp cheddar.


This recipe dates itself by calling for margarine.  But substituting butter is a no no!  Don’t be tempted, your cheese wafers will spread.  Use room temperature margarine.


Sift the salt, red pepper and flour. Then mix in the cheese and margarine.  Mix well with your hands until combined and mixture forms a ball.


Divide dough and roll into long, skinny logs.  Roll each cheese log in wax paper.


We are saving ours for the holidays, so I packaged them in a freezer bag.  When needed I can pull out one or more logs, slice and bake.  Make sure you slice and bake when the dough is still very, very chilled.  Allowing the wafers to come to room temp will cause them to spread.

Watch your oven carefully.  I usually take a good peek at 8 minutes as the wafers can burn in a matter of seconds.  You want them golden just around the bottom edges.

Make some this weekend! You’ll be thrilled to have these on hand during the holidays.

Have an early Merry Christmas!

Salmon Crisps


Rather spontaneously we had some friends over for appetizers last night.   My good friend Claire celebrated her 40th on Saturday night and since her family was still in town the party continued with a quick fete at The Schell Cafe.  I wish I could take credit for these yummy Salmon Crisps. Cissi’s Wine Bar served these amuse-bouches at the party Saturday and I knew I’d be recreating them myself soon.  I added fried capers to mine which is a fun twist.

Salmon Crisps are definitely a crowd pleaser so be sure to add this to your repertoire of quick, easy appetizers.  I’ll share a few other appetizer ideas I tried last night later this week.  One is a super simple shrimp ‘tizer featured in this month’s Bon Appetit.


Littlest loved all the ‘tizers and spent the evening circling the island taking hand outs from anyone willing to pass one her way.  She was especially fond of the salmon crisps.  Attagirl!

Salmon Crisps

1 bag potato chips (I used Lightly Salted Kettle, Zapps would be good too!)

1 4-oz package smoked salmon

1/2 cup creme-fraiche

juice from 1/2 lemon

fresh dill

Optional: Fried Capers

In a small bowl squeeze 1/2 of lemon into creme-fraiche and whisk until smooth.  Arrange chips on a serving dish and place a small dollop of creme-fresh on each chip.  Top with a small slice of salmon.  Add a pinch of dill and fried capers.

To fry capers, drain about 1/4 cup capers on to a paper towel and pat dry.  Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a small saute pan.  Add capers and stir fry for about one minute. Drain on paper towel.

TIP: Make the salmon crisps just before serving or the chips will get soggy.  Also, let the creme-fraiche come to room temp for the best flavor.

Homemade Croutons


What do you do with the heel at the ends of the bread loaf?  Honestly? Do you reach right past secretly hoping someone else will use it? Do you try to conceal it from your children by placing it out of sight on the bottom of the sandwich?  Or do you simply toss it?

I don’t know about your household, but around The Schell Cafe no one will voluntarily eat the heel of the bread.  Husband will on occasion, but only as an act of frugality not because the heel is his chosen choice of bread slices.

Rather than torture the Littles by making them eat the heels, I’ve started making homemade croutons.  Which, as it turns out, is a double bonus as they started liking salads when I began garnishing their greens with homemade croutons.

You can get as fancy as you want making croutons.  It’s a great way to use flavored olive oils or tasty combinations of herbs and spices.  If I have just a tiny bit of chives or other herbs leftover, I toss ’em in.  Once you’ve made  your own croutons a few times you’ll start noticing all kinds of extras lying around the kitchen that will serve as great flavor boosters.

Homemade Croutons

Heels of bread loaf or slightly stale slices (anything destined for the trash!)

olive oil


herbs or seasonings to your liking

First, cube the heels of the bread loaves.


Next, toss the cubed bread with a splash of olive oil and desired herbs or seasonings.  I just used coarse sea salt for this batch of croutons.


Spread the oil bathed croutons on a foil-lined baking sheet.  I use my toaster oven.  No sense heating up the kitchen for such a small task.


Bake at 200 for twenty or thirty minutes, until the bread is dried and crunchy!  Store in a baggie or tupperware container for up to a week.

You can also put the croutons in a small food processor and pulse to make bread crumbs. I do this to make the Littles breaded chicken tenders…but I’ll save that for a Kids Cook posting soon.

*** Gluten Free Update: We now use the heels of our Udi’s bread for croutons and breadcrumbs! Freeze until you are ready to make.

Nana’s Olive Balls

I love family recipes that have precious memories.  My Nana passed away when I was two, so I cherish stories like this that Mia passed along to me.  I’ve nibbled on these olive balls all of my life and at some point along the way added the martinis too.  I think Nana would be thrilled to know her great granddaughters enjoy making her delicious olive balls.  And, for the record the Littles have not had martinis yet.
From Mia:
Mother made these almost every time she entertained…and that was often. When Poppy built the walk-in bar and he became quite adapt at making a fabulous martini the olive balls made history among friends and family.
Mother introduced me to a martini at a restaurant/ bar in Dallas. I honestly don’t remember where, but my guess is the Melrose as she loved to stay there because of family history living in the Penthouse. In fact, remember that the first time you were ever in a swimming pool was at the Melrose Hotel’s pool?
Sorry, got lost in memories. Here is THE  recipe. Remember they freeze great!
Nana’s Olive Balls~~With or Without Martini’s
2 cups of grated sharp cheese
1/2 cup of soft BUTTER (remember butter wasn’t used often)
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of paprika
48 stuffed green olives
Blend cheese with butter, add flour, salt, paprika
Take about a teaspoon of mixture, place into palm and put an olive in it.
15 minutes at 4oo degrees
These freeze and can be taken out as many as you want at a time.

Try these as an appetizer for your next get-together with family and friends.  They will disappear in a flash!

Early Onset Everything (Rosemary Cashews)


So with all the hustle and bustle around the cafe yesterday (and I don’t mean in a festive Christmas way), I never got around to making the fish stock for this weekend’s bouillabaisse.  I did however whip up a batch of yummy Rosemary Cashews.  A dear friend was in town for a visit and I thought I’d serve these delicious nuts as a little ‘tizer before we went out to dinner.

Only I forgot to serve them.  Seriously. The Littles nibbled on them, I savored a few, and then they sat lonely on the counter until I remembered them this morning.  I refuse to give into the notion that these forgetful moments have anything to do with the new decade I recently entered.  But I have to admit I’m beginning to think I have early onset everything….

Before I forget, here’s the recipe for Ina Garten’s Rosemary Cashews.  Mia debuted these at Thanksgiving this year and they are truly scrumptious.

Rosemary Cashews

1 lb roasted, unsalted cashews

2 Tbs minced fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp light brown sugar

1 Tbs kosher salt (I used less)

2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the cashews out on a sheet pan.  Toast in the oven until warm, 5 -10 minutes.

Add melted butter to large bowl.  Toss warm cashews to coat, quickly add spice mixture and stir to coat.

Ina suggests serving these nuts warm. Warm or cold, my only suggestion is that you just remember to serve them at all!