Mini Cheese Ball Bites

So this was a new appetizer for Thanksgiving  but for me it plays into my holiday thing. Holidays call for cheese balls – yes, they do, because I used to make a cheese ball when I was all of 12 years-old for our Christmas smorgasbord – my name for our Christmas Eve feast thing. I have tried to advance my cheese ball experience to go way beyond my immature 12 year-old self. I mean dried beef was involved.* Ugh.  But now that I think about it – what would it be like to try that recipe several decades later? Would it be good or would the food snob in me completely revolt. I am not sure and little scared to try to be honest. I still have that recipe, so who knows what might happen.

This recipe has lots of my favorite flavors: bleu cheese, cranberries, pecans. Those flavors are holidays to me. Especially with our local pecans, just harvested this fall – they are so sweet and totally set off the saltiness of the bleu cheese. Also, I am hard pressed to ever turn down a dried cranberry. [See: Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies]dd_1693

I do love that the base of this can be made ahead – the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry part. Then the day of, make the mini cheese bites, roll in top quality local pecans and add that little pretzel skewer. Excellent. This will also make this recipe in a regular sized cheese ball to go with bread or crackers. May have to do this for the next pot luck at work. We shall see.

8 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
4 ozs bleu cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely minced
1 1/2 cup pecans, minced
pretzel sticks

In a bowl, mix together bleu cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in cranberries. Refrigerate until firm. Using a spoon, scoop into tablespoon sized balls. Refrigerate again until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecan pieces in oven for 7 – 10 minutes, until fragrant. Allow pecans to cool. Roll chilled cheese balls in pecans. Keep balls refrigerated.

Just before serving, skewer each cheese ball with a pretzel stick. 

Do Ahead: Make the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry mixture and cover, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, toast the pecans, roll the cheese balls in them, and add the pretzel sticks.

* Here it is for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

2016 – A Year Ago – Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Asparagus, Red Onion, Fettuccini with orange juice, white wine, butter sauce 

Once again I fall back on one of my vegetarian recipes. I think it is summer thing, I just want much lighter food in the summer. I really do not have an actual recipe for this, I just remember making it for something like the decade that I was a vegetarian. That said, I still prefer mostly meat-less dishes with the exception of a very good rib-eye – my favorite cut – or some bbq – or well, I will likely go on a bit to long and then disprove my “mostly meat-less” idea. Either way – summer needs to be light.

D&D_1533Now that I think about it though, I do not like soup with meat in it, kind of like ever, and nor do I like pasta with meat in it very often. Maybe that is odd, but it is just the way I am.

Be that as it may, this is one of my favorite pasta recipes ever and I find it interesting that the flavors are similar to my favorite cous cous salad recipe – orange juice, red onions … that seems to be a thing, for me anyway.

So here it is  – yet another non-recipe recipe. Hope you enjoy it and I think you will.

1 softball* sized red onion, peeled, and sliced
1 bunch of pencil thin-ish asparagus, woody stems broken off, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 package Buitoni fettuccini
fresh orange juice
Splash of vegetable stock – 2 Tbs or thereabouts
187 ml decent white wine – Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio – one of the little 4 pack bottles
More butter to finish – salted, and perhaps European, yep
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggino – the good stuff, just do not play around with this, seriously.

In at least a 12 inch sauce pan, melt the butter and then dump in the red onions.  At the same time set another pot with water to boil to blanch the asparagus. You will use the same water to boil the fettuccini – easy and healthy – or something. Saute the onions until they are soft  while blanching the asparagus, but make sure to remove the asparagus when it is bright green, it will cook a bit more in the white wine orange juice sauce.

When the onions are soft, deglaze the pan with the white wine and a couple of TBS of vegetable stock, and let it cook down a bit. Then add the orange juice about a cup and a half. It will look like way too much, but do not panic. Dump the fettuccini in the asparagus water and cook it to al dente. Move the asparagus into the white wine orange sauce – you are just going to have to wing it at this point. Tasting, judging, you might need to add a little more orange juice. The big thing is to not over cook the pasta.

Add the pasta to the orange juice butter asparagus red onion sauce and let it soak up the sauce. The just to gild the lily, add a couple of TBS of really good European butter – swirl.

When serving you need the salty bite of some Parm – yes, you do.

You are welcome.

*I think recipes really need to tell you the size of an onion – um, medium means pretty much nothing if you do not know what “medium” means. So, I think we all have an idea of a softball, so that is what I am going with.

Steven’s Market Deli – Pace, Florida

I am a bit of a potato salad person. I will pretty much try everyone’s potato salad – it is just a thing for me. It is a measure of how well a restaurant can do something that is relatively simple. I love to make my own, but I also love to try any other version. Steven’s Market Deli caught my attention because they sold German Potato Salad – yes, I just did lots of capital letters there. But I had a real idea of where they procured that German potato salad (yes, I have now relaxed a bit, not so many capital letters), but it was so obvious it was from The Creamery – an excellent Gulf Breeze restaurant that sadly closed not too long after we moved here. I had the fading hope that after The Creamery closed that Steven’s might pick up the idea and make their own German potato salad. They did not, but that was a boon for me because it made me try their traditional potato salad. Damn skippy – that is some really good potato salad. D&D_1494

I used to work at a place very similar to Steven’s Market Deli. It was in Jacksonville and it was a cafe that also had ice cream. Hence, why I am so over ice cream. Serve it enough and you just do not care anymore. This place had a stupid name and though it thought itself a tearoom, it really was a small cute cafe that served croissant sandwiches, quiche, soup, and oddly enough a knockwurst plate with… wait for it … German potato salad. I will say this was my introduction to Twinings tea with my favorite being Earl Grey and that was a very good thing.

Well, once again, I have wondered far afield from where I started. Back to Steven’s Market Deli. Beyond getting potato salad to go, I have had their pork barbecue sandwich with cheddar and it is just amazing! – yes, it deserves the exclamation point. Chicken salad is also really good. And the stuffed grape leaves, sigh. I need to get them more often. I have not been to brunch there, but the menu looks pretty amazing – I just don’t quite get up early enough on the weekend for that. Yep – that is just me.

It seems when I go on the weekend to get potato salad (and next time stuffed grape leaves), there are always high school-aged kids. I think that is cool. And one thing that always impresses me is when I get my potato salad, these high school kids sprinkle the top of the potato salad with paprika and chives. It is just a little attention to detail that endears them to me. They do not have to do that, but they do – and to me that means a great deal. This is the kind of local establishment that I want to, and continue to, frequent. Love local restaurants.

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

Chickpeas are so slightly amazing. Think hummus, think salads, and now roasted chickpeas.  I had being seeing recipes for this for a while, but this is the first time I tried it. But as usual, had to make a modification or two. D&D_1489

So this is …

2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed  – yes, that is a must – rinse them. Not kidding.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
pinch cayenne
1 tsp dried chipotle chili pepper – do love this stuff for the smokey thing going on.
juice of half a lemon
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a roasting pan with foil, for easy clean up.

In a bowl, combine chickpeas, olive oil, salt, cayenne, chipotle pepper, lemon juice and Worcestershire. Mix to coat. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, mixing the pan and rotating half way through. The chickpeas should be lightly browned. Allow to cool completely.

These were pretty amazing in my opinion. I think they might be good on a salad and they also might pretty good hummus too. Just a thought.

Pear and Bleu Cheese Turnovers

I was always a big fan of turnovers. My Dad’s Mom made amazing fried apple pies –  which is a turnover – mostly. She made them with dried apples – not sure why they were made with dried apples but then she fried them in a  – I am not sure what that thing was called – I think it might be an electric skillet. Maybe? Not sure.

D&D_1492That said, when my grandmama came down from Rockingham North Carolina, she made those fried apple pies and they were (are) sublime. My Mom loved them – which was kind of cool because she was a great cook/bakery herself. Sometimes old recipes are the best. Indeed, mostly they are.

I have found a variation of  (chausson aux pommes “apple slippers”*) the fried apple pies that grandmama made and it totally works for me, but I think this new recipe might be just a little bit more interesting. I mean – pears – and then bleu cheese is involved. Although, I think Granny Smith apples would work well too.

1 sheet of puff pastry
1 good sized not over ripe Anjou pear, peeled, cored, and diced
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
1 egg, for egg wash, beaten with 1 Tbs water
Raw sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment. Combine pears, lemon juice, cranberries, and bleu cheese in a bowl and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll a sheet of puff pastry into a square, about 11 x 11 inches. Trim back to a 10 x 10 inch square. Using a pizza wheel, cut into 9 smaller squares – oh, lord, math is involved – ugh. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each square. Brush two edges with egg wash and fold pastry into a triangle. Press edges to seal. Transfer to baking sheet and chill 20 minutes.

Once chilled, brush triangles with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar and make a couple of slits for the steam to escape. Bake 25 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

* The French make everything sound so much better, damn them. It is also Bastille Day.

Source: Baking Obsession

Homemade Boursin

I am a huge fan of Boursin. My spell check wants me to write bourbon but I am not a big fan of that, so that is not going to happen. I think the best Boursin-like cheese I had was in Amsterdam. Lord, there are cheese shops there are on every corner. Yes, I should move there now. I really could live on bread and cheese alone – I am not kidding about this.D&D_1485

We were in Amsterdam when the Boy was about three and a half and he and I would walk along the canals. Such a lovely city. One time there was a what I can only think was a boat full of tourists on the canal and they were video recording the Boy and I (mostly the Boy) on the bridge as they went by. Funny, with his blonde hair and blue eyes, I’m sure they thought he was a native. They recorded a really cute American kid in Amsterdam.

It is a bit of an indulgence, Boursin. It is not cheap, but it is worth it. And to figure out  a way to make it at home would be pretty nice. Even if it is a close approximation I think I will be pretty damn happy with it.

Yes, just bread and some sort of cheese –  No dessert, no chocolate. Not sure I could give up lemons though. Just give me bread and cheese and I will be happy. Yes, very happy.  And beer not giving  that up, forgot to mention that bit. But I do not think that is a big surprise.

8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1 medium sized shallot, minced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup Italian parsley, minced
2 Tbs chives, minced
a couple or three scallions, minced
Lemon zest, as much as you would like – I lean in favor of quite a bit, but that is me – at least, and then the juice of that lemon too.
Finely ground black pepper, just a few turns

Whir up the shallot in the food processor. Add salt, pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice and whir just a couple more times. Add the cream cheese,  parsley, chives, scallions, and ground pepper.

Pack into a ramekin and cover with plastic wrap (cling film) and chill for an hour and up to five days.  Serve with crostini or some kind of bread thing – so random – toast maybe. I still think that an oven-toasted crostini would be the best delivery vehicle. But now that I have had that, I think a nice soft bit of French bread would also suit well.

I have to say … I really liked this – um, a lot. Probably too much.

Butter usage – by month – April 2016

D&D_1337

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars – yep

2 April –  8 Tbs – Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars (for Heather)

9 April – 8 Tbs – Salted Crispy Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

11 April – 2 Tbs – Everyday Orzo (once again amazing!)

13 April – 8 Tbs – Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

16 April – 12 Tbs – Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze – don’t do this

17 April – 7 Tbs – Italian Cream Cake

21 April – 8 Tbs – Lemon Ricotta Cookies – don’t do that either, do this

28 April – 12 Tbs – Brown Sugar White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

30 April – 5 Tbs – Mac and Cheese My Mom’s recipe, as such which I will say again – just do it. Really. Not kidding.

30 April – 8 Tbs – Brown Sugar Pecan Scones

78 Tbs = 9.75 sticks = 39 ozs = 2.4375 pounds

Not great, but not a ringing endorsement either. And from what I can gather my May does not start out any better. Crap.