Goin’ Home To Oregon & Baked Walla Walla Sweet Onion Dip

Story and recipe originally published in 2008.

One of the drawbacks to living in beautiful Southern California is that I am nowhere geographically close to any of my immediate family. Since no one in the family has yet to retire or become independently wealthy, none of us see each other that often. It was finally Dad’s turn to have to put up with a visit from us, so we packed our bags and headed up to Oregon.

I grew up in beautiful North-Eastern Oregon on good-sized cattle ranch, which has since been dissolved when my parents’ lives grew apart. However, my dad still lives in the same farming valley, now on a nice, little 10 acre property where he still has a few horses and enjoys the splendor of living on fertile soil surrounded by alluring foothill mountains. Going to see Dad is always still “Going Home” even if it isn’t the house I grew up in. To get home, we fly into Portland, then drive 5 hours east. The journey allows one’s mind to change pace from the busy city life to the more laid-back country-side. I become more reflective and nostalgic as the miles roll by. My mind starts savoring the things I loved from growing up in that little farming and logging valley, and I find myself more at peace with those things which I spurned as a youth.

“Snip”, the stallion & “Doc”, the gelding

We always enjoy seeing the changes in geography as we course our way across the northern edge of Oregon. Beginning in the lush, rain-heavy Portland, the highway leads us upstream along the Columbia River and the gorge which it has carved. Soon the rains fall less, the heat increases, and the winds dry out the landscape. In early spring there were still signs of green, but those will soon disappear. I used to see these parts as barren wasteland, but now see beauty in it’s dry frontier. Not long afterwards, the highway diverges from the Columbia River, and the geography changes again. The winds are less, and the rain a bit more, so you’ll start seeing farmland sprouting out of this gentle, but warm landscape. If you diverge north, you can cross the border and follow the road leading to the super fertile plain which Walla Walla, WA calls home. There is nothing like a Walla Walla sweet onion grown in Walla Walla. Soon our road east leads us through the cowboy and Native American town of Pendleton, then starts heading up into the foothill mountains.

“Rascal”, the troublemaker

Once in the mountains, I start to feel like home is near. Before long, the highway drops down into a valley where a river lazily courses through it, farmland quilts the land, cattle and horses outnumber the people, and where a cowboy turned urban Californian was born and raised. I’m back to soak in the beauty of my birthing ground. One of the allures which dominate my longings for home are our horses. I can get a quick mountain fix less than a couple hours outside our southern California home. We have friends down here which train show jumping horses, so it isn’t just horses in general that I miss. I miss “our horses.” Most of all Doc, who was the last colt born on the ranch I grew up on. Fully of personality and sass, Doc is a beautiful Quarter Horse who it notoriously ornery about being caught or letting people pet him. He’ll just tease you to let you know he is “allowing you the privilege” to come up to him. But once he’s accepted you, there isn’t a better horse to have under you to ride the trails or work cattle. I miss him like a brother. I know I am truly home when I’ve seen and hugged Dad, then have gone out to the pasture and been nudged by Doc.


“Best Ever” Baked Sweet Onion Dip !

Sweet Onions from their ranch Garden

walla walla sweet onion dip

Baked Sweet Onion Dip


  • 1 8 oz package of cream cheese (very softened)
  • 1 cup mayo (preferably Best Foods brand)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup diced or chopped sweet onion. You choose your size
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • Crusty bread or crackers


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl, place softened cream cheese. The cream cheese must be very, very, soft (like spreadable butter) to allow all ingredients to blend evenly together. If your cream cheese needs to soften more, place in microwave for a few seconds.
  2. Add mayo, parmesan cheese, onions and fresh cracked black pepper to soft cream cheese till everything is mixed thoroughly.
  3. Place mixture in ramekins or any oven safe dishes. Bake slowly, for about 30-45 minutes for all ingredients to cook together. When the top crust is brown, almost burnt looking then the dip is ready. The darker brown the crust of the dip becomes, the better the flavors are cooked.
  4. Serve with your favorite bread and crackers.
Recipe Source: WhiteOnRiceCouple.com.

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Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.

What reminds you of home?


{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Margaret Rizzuto

    Made this over the week-end amazing and totally addictive – again. This will for sure be a party menu staple.


  2. Marie M.C.

    Thanks so much for your quick reply. I never think of checking out Ross for cookware. Gotta remember that. I’m so glad I discovered your beautiful website. And this recipe!

  3. Marie M.C.

    I just found your site via “The Pioneer Women Cooks”. This dip is calling my name. I LOVE the small cast iron oval cookware, too. Where can I buy them? Many thanks.

    1. White on Rice Couple

      We found ours cheap at Ross but we’ve seen them fairly inexpensively at Sur La Table and Crate and Barrel. Good luck in your hunt!

  4. HoneyB

    Love the scenery and the horses AND the Picture of the recipe and dip! YUM!

    One thing I remember the most as a child at home was the breeze blowing in the window of my bedroom, the smell of the fresh air as I lie on my bed. I grew up in the country and the quietness and the fresh clean air is what makes me feel at home.

  5. sra

    I enjoyed reading this post. The pictures make me want to spend some time there. I’m not too far away from home but don’t get to visit as often as I like – a quiet summer’s afternoon reminds me of home.

  6. michelle @ TNS

    also, spaetzles remind me of home.

  7. michelle @ TNS

    i want some of that dip, and i want to smooch those horses. but not in a grody way.

  8. Tartelette

    Great post guys! Loved everything about it! What reminds me of home…any passionate person for food, wine and good times! The dip recipe is sensational!! Can’t find walla walla onions but I’ll use local sweet vidalia instead!

  9. lifeinrecipes

    Oh my. I know that dip will be amazing. My corner grocery sells something akin to that and it is like eating crack, but I know there’s product involved that I don’t really want to eat. This is the real deal. On the list for my nest get-together.

  10. Gastronomer

    Since the previous comments pretty much captured my ideas… Here’s something totally off topic.

    Walla Walla, WA reminds me of Hypochondriac Tanya from the Real World Chicago. I watch too much reality TV 😉

  11. Jesse

    An onion that you can eat like an apple?? I DON’T BELIEVE IT! Send me some and prove me wrong!

    *I showed the pictures of the horses to my puppy and he got scared of them ^_^*

  12. Cakelaw

    Oregon looks breathtakingly beautiful in these photographs – thanks once again for sharing your experiences with us. The sweet onion dip sounds devine. Food from my childhood always reminds me of home.

  13. Homecooked

    Lovely pics.And you have a beautiful place to call home. I am sure you all relaxed and had a great time with your dad.

  14. Wandering Chopsticks

    I did not know you were an Oregonian too. 🙂 I’ve only driven past Eastern Oregon though so I enjoyed seeing the scenery and horses. I was just talking about Walla Walla onions last night and missing Burgerville’s gigantic onion rings when they’re in season.

  15. Kalyn

    It was very fun seeing your faces on the video. The onion dip sounds just delicious. We get Walla Walla onions here sometimes and I love to use them when they’re available.

  16. bee and jai

    thanks, todd and diane, for trying out the silken tofu version and letting us know how it turned out.

  17. Ivy

    Wonderful post. I enjoyed reading it and those pictures with the horses were beautiful. Never heard of Walla Walla before but it sounded delicious.

  18. Mike

    The food looks excellent and the photos of the scenery are, as always, beautiful!

  19. Babeth

    Stunning pictures. The videos are nice add-ons to the blog.

  20. Lori

    I love the color of Rascal! 🙂 What reminds me of home? Sand and clear blue water.

  21. Rita

    look at those gorgeous golden goodness! (u know i am partial to anything goldie) hehe

    anything deep fried reminds me of home hehehe hehehehehe

  22. Kevin

    That baked sweet onion dip sounds amazing. The golden brown cheese crust looks great. Bookmarked.

  23. Marc @ NoRecipes

    I bet that dip is fantastic straight out of the oven all bubbly and delicious. As for what reminds me of home I’d have to say vineyards and bright sunny days (I grew up in Napa).

  24. FlaNBoyant Eats

    I love you guys! How wonderful these pics and trip are! I thought about you guys today as my mom appeared with some green onion from an old friend’s garden. They’re like 12″ long. Im taking them with me to ATL and trying them out… I wish I had a bit more time to be as adventurous as you guys…Then again, I’m manless these days and all that outdoorsy stuff sucks doing it alone!

    D, how are those shoes coming along??

  25. A-kay

    That was a great post with awesome pictures. Although I have been to Oregon couple of times, never been to the Eastern side of it – always restricted myself to the coastal West.

    Walla walla onions – sounds funny and the dip looks great. Can I replace the Mayo with any non-egg substitute?

  26. noble pig

    Wow, that looks like a beautiful dip. And the property is too die for!

  27. Christine

    The video was so much fun to watch. I really liked how you filmed the drive to Todd’s Dad’s home. The horses are so cool – [I have a special affection for them as I was born in the year of the Horse :)]

    I never heard of the waterfall you went to. It’s amazing – just breathtaking. Great moves on the trampoline, Diane! 🙂 Great to see you’re having a blast out there!

    I will try that onion recipe soon (is it Walla Walla season?). It looks awesome.

  28. Lil

    awww must be so nice to be home, and horses at the ranch! that’s cool and i wish i have something like that to go home to… but still, even without that, my home will always be home because it’s filled with love and that’s plenty to keep me happy…

    since home where i grew up is a couple of continents away, i’ve learn to love home away from home (in europe) by making myself “belong” here, not to feel like outsiders, but never to forget my roots too… 😉

  29. Sandie (Inn Cuisine)

    First – The 2nd photo is spectacular (on multiple levels.)
    Second – The recipe–easy and delicious. I can make this tonight!
    Third – The video–wow. I feel like I just went on vacation with you! The waterfall, the scenery, the ranch chores, the horses…the whole thing was beautiful (although I find myself wondering if you actually got a ticket or got off with a warning?)

    What reminds me of home? I’m not sure right now as the answer has changed a lot for me over the past year. In the spring though, it might be lilac bushes.

  30. Neen

    Wow, great post. I’ve never been to Oregon, but you managed to communicate VERY successfully, through words and pictures, just how different it is from Washington DC! Love the pics of the onions, gives me a real appreciation of the resulting food, makes it more precious. I just finished hosting my parents here for a week, so reading your post really hit home. Thanks!

  31. grace

    for the first time in my 25 years, i’m pretty far away from home, so it’s probably not a stretch to say that EVERYTHING reminds me of home. case in point: pictures of horses automatically make me think of the two beauties back home, running around in our meadow. (sadly, i haven’t seen a single horse since i’ve been in ny.)

    enough moping! thanks for sharing your lovely pictures and commentary! 🙂

  32. matt wright

    Great looking onion dish guys. Really cool dishes too I have to say.
    There is nothing quite like going home.

  33. Big Boys Oven

    looks so amazing! wish I was there too!

  34. Ginger M.

    Another enjoyable video guys! The scenery looks gorgeous – so much wide open spaces! I’m sure the baked sweet onion dip is delicious but somehow I’m drooling over the unbaked version…

  35. ovenhaven

    Beautiful scenery! I love the second photo; the background looks breathtaking, as of a painting. I’ve never heard of Walla Wallas (the closest I’ve come to something of the ‘w’ alliteration would probably be Willy Wonka! :P), but that baked sweet onion sure looks delightful!

  36. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Oh I do love Walla Wallas!
    Over the years HOME has been many places but then there are only a very few places that are really home. I think it’s some combination of memory, spirit and the living that went on in a place &/or the people. Home for me will always be where my Dad is (and my Mom when she was alive). And it is always where Gorn is today. But then there are places that are home even without the people and I think that has something to do with the living that went on which involved the people but somehow took on it’s own spirit.

  37. Su-Lin

    I can’t say I’ve ever had a Walla Walla onion but I sure do remember the commercials for them with the old guy biting into one like an apple!

  38. RecipeGirl

    A very pretty place to visit indeed!

    Related story- hubby and I were at a local drinking establishment when we befriended the gentlemen sitting on the barstool next to us. He was in town on business – he was some executive with the Walla Walla onion business in Washington! Anyway, he directed me to their website and I ended up making a Sweet Onion Dip from their site that was pretty tasty. Your baked version looks really decadent!

  39. Annemarie

    I thought Walla Walla was just a place name Bugs Bunny had made up. Shows me. Looks beautiful out there, as do your baked onions. Mmm.

  40. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Great post and photos, Todd (and Diane). For me, home is the streets of New York City, but these days the “home” I miss is the one right here in Rhode Island, with my lovely herb garden and a porch where I can sit and watch the birds. Nothing quite like it….

  41. Jen Yu

    Wooohooo! Go ski woman! Nice moves there, honey. I think you’re ready for some Colorado snow now 🙂 Loved the video of Todd’s Dad’s home and all of the fun you guys had. Oregon is a gorgeous state. Just watch those fences, babe – ‘kay? Wouldn’t want our favorite crayzee couple harmed in ANY way! xxoo

  42. bee and jai

    todd and diane, thanks for taking us on another incredible journey. oregon is an amazing place. we’re just 30 minutes away. we need to go there more often.

    thanks for the great dip recipe. we planted some walla wallas this year.

    a question. we are not mayo fans. will silken tofu work instead? or more cream cheese?

  43. White on Rice Couple

    Naomi- Thanks! and that sounds like a fun meme. We might just have to do the meme twice because we’re two very different people!

    Lisa- We try to be our normal, scattered selves on the videos and sometimes wonder if all this random stuff makes sense to all you guys. Glad it makes sense to you! For the WW onions, check out the Walla Walla , WA site on the post. There’s info there on how to order some if they are unavailable in your area.

    Anya – Great explanation of what “home” is. We totally agree!

    Manggy- Oh No!!! I was making fun of cheerleaders, not trying to seriously be one! Did that come across on the video? Geez, I have to try harder to “not be serious” next time! 🙂

    Evil Mamma- 105 degrees outside? Crazy!! Now those flames on your header picture make sense! 🙂 I love taking those pictures of “father & son”. Kids need more pictures of themselves with their parents. They’re priceless.

    Amy & Jonny- It really was peaceful and pretty there. We should try to get you together with “Rascal”, he just might make you hate horses all together! 😉

    Suganya- wow, 36 hours! Well, when you do get a chance to go home, hope you’re there for a long visit to make it worth the flight.

    Sheltie Girl- Welcome! Vidalias are delicious too and hope you enjoy the dish!

  44. Sheltie Girl

    I love going home to the heat of Florida. It’s always a wrench to leave though. I really enjoy Vidalia onions and always have a lot when I get home. I’ll have to try out your onion dish with some lovely Vidalias.

    Sheltie Girl @ Gluten a Go Go

  45. Suganya

    I wish I could ‘go home’ whenever I want to. I just dread that 36 hours flight, half way around the world.

  46. We Are Never Full

    I’m not really a horse lover, but those horse pictures are beautiful. Looks really peaceful there! And that onion thingity thang… wow. looks delish. hope you enjoyed your time home – it sure seems like you did!

  47. evil chef mom

    That was by far my favorite post! That picture of Todd and his Dad with the mountains behind him is beautiful, sexy, and sweet all at the same time. How is that even possible? Love Rascal! And I’ll make sure to never lean on an electric fence. At my next party I can’t wait to make the dip.

    Home is falling asleep at night in the summer with the windows open to catch some of the delta breezes, it’s also home when it’s 105 degrees outside and everything is sluggish because of the heat. The smells of chlorine on skin, a glass of coke and ice sweating in the sun, and fruit.

  48. Manggy

    Note: I am enjoying sooo much that we can see your faces now, and there’s no need for Austin Powers-like tricks to hide them, heh heh 🙂

    That looks waaay beyond peaceful. Enough to drive a city boy like me insane 😛 But I’m sure with great company and great food (like, ahem, some smashing onion dip) I can manage!

    Video at 1:19: don’t fall asleep, Todd!
    I was about to ask if you were actually a cheerleader, Diane… But I think you answered the question already, lol 🙂 (Kidding! You totally could be one 🙂

    I would be extremely frightened of Rascal. I would not make a good vet!

  49. anya

    Your videos is something I will not hurry up to forget!! And your recipes is definitely something I will not forget in a hurry!! 🙂

    To me ‘home’ means a place where I feel comfortable – that is a place where both my heart and hat are! 🙂

  50. Lisa

    Thanks for sharing your Oregon adventures. I love your videos and photos and food! I think that covers it all! It’s not even 9am here in New England and I’m already salivating over that onion dip. Think I can find Walla Wallas in RI????

  51. naomi

    I just love your blog! That scenery is breath taking. Nothing like the rolling hills of dorset that make me think of home.

    I nominated you guys for a meme. Very short and sweet, just 6 words that sum up your essence – although I guess you could have six each if you wanted?

    Check out details on my blog.

    x x x

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