The Practical Pantry began in 1998 as a weekly newspaper column. After 10 years, The Practical Pantry's first cookbook was published. The food column continues to be published weekly, and many of the newspaper columns appear below.

Enjoy the taste of French onion

Published the week of July 4, 2016

Few things are as decadent as slow-cooked French onion soup served with large croutons and melted cheese. While the soup itself can take a long time to prepare, the flavor of it is much easier to get—and it works in a variety of dishes.

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French Onion Bake

1 loaf French bread or baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 3/4-ounce envelope onion soup mix, prepared according to package directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange bread slices on baking sheets and bake until dry and golden, about 5 minutes per side. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange half the bread slices in a single layer over bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese and top with remaining bread slices. Pour prepared onion soup over bread and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake until bread has absorbed most of the soup and cheese is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

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French Onion Brussels Sprouts

1 pound fresh Brussels sprout
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons French onion soup mix ( 1 packet)
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the root end off the sprouts; peel off the first layer of leaves and cut each one on half. Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan until the butter just starts to brown. Add the sprouts while being careful not to get splattered with hot oil. Stir or toss frequently until the sprouts are nicely browned. Add the water and soup mix and simmer uncovered for about 7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

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French Onion Burgers

1 2-7/8 ounce cans French-fried onions
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef
1 4ounce cans mushrooms, drained and diced
4 hamburger buns

In a bowl, combine the onions, Worcestershire sauce, salt and mushrooms if using. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into 4 patties. Grill, uncovered, over medium heat or broil 4 inches from the heat for 6 to 9 minutes on each side or until no longer pink. Serve on buns with any condiments and toppings of your choice. Makes 4 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

Sometimes the easiest way to enjoy the taste of French onion is in dip. Try serving with veggies, crackers, corn chips, or pretzels.

Bring red, white, and blue to dessert

Published the week of June 27, 2016

Fourth of July celebrations rarely occur without food. While grilling and picnics might not have much room for festive colors, dessert definitely does. Just combine some naturally red, white, and blue foods in to something sweet and special.

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Red, White, and Blue Cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups butter-flavored shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 12-ounce package white chocolate chips
1 12-ounce package dried blueberries
2 6-ounce packages dried cranberries

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the shortening, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in one egg until completely incorporated. Beat in the other egg. Mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the white chocolate chips, blueberries, and cranberries, mixing just enough to evenly combine. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and place 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Flatten each ball to about 1/2-inch thick. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 72 cookies.

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Red, White, and Blue Trifle

3 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 quart heavy cream
1 3.3-ounce package instant white chocolate pudding mix, unprepared
1 6-ounce container lemon yogurt
2 16-ounce prepared pound cakes, cubed
2 pints fresh blueberries, or as needed

Chill a large metal mixing bowl and beaters from an electric mixer. In a bowl, sprinkle the strawberries with sugar; stir to distribute the sugar, and set aside. Pour the cream into the chilled mixing bowl and add the white chocolate pudding mix, and lemon yogurt; beat until fluffy with an electric mixer set on medium speed.

Spread a layer of pound cake cubes into the bottom of a glass 10×15-inch baking dish. Cover the pound cake with a layer of strawberries; sprinkle blueberries over the strawberries. Spread a thick layer of whipped cream over the berries. Repeat the layers several times, ending with a layer of strawberries sprinkled with blueberries and reserving about 1 cup of whipped cream; top the trifle with dollops of whipped cream to serve. Refrigerate leftovers. Makes 15 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

Plan ahead and make red and blue ice cubes using food coloring and your drinks will be festive too.