Tag Archives: cream cheese

Tasty Tidbits

18 Jul

Life is changing in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago and can be somewhat confusing at times. News can saturate us with negativism, leadership is questionable at times, and we cannot move about out lives like we once could. Where is the joy in these times of “quarantine projects” and staying home? For me, even if it is just for my small quarantine crew, it is cooking

Not in the labor of it per se-although I don’t mind it most days. It is the coming together over food that lifts my spirit and feeds my soul. It is sitting at the table eating, chatting, laughing, sharing, listening, and ultimately, connecting.

These days, I tend toward more simple but savory dishes when I set my mind to cooking. Let’s look at two tantalizing tasty treats that are not time consuming. One is simply assembling, the other involves a bit of mixing and cooking.

First, lets go super easy.

For a quick refreshing summer appetizer with minimal ingredients and a few minutes of time, you will have a savory summer delicacy sure to please. This appetizer is in the category of “assemble and serve”. Get these simple ingredients together:

  • Cherry or grape tomateos
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite size pieces
  • Your favorite vinaigrette or balsamic reduction
  • toothpicks (the frilly fancy kind if you have ’em)

Take a toothpick, and thread a tomato, basil leaf, and piece of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette, balsamic reduction, or whatever strikes your fancy. Lay them on a fun pretty little plate or dish. Next, pour a refreshing chilled cocktail and enjoy this fun delectable tidbit.

My favorite “assemble and serve” summer appetizer.

Want something a little more creamy? Got a little more time? Then we can go the dip route. A hot rich dip. Using basic pantry and fridge staples so no fuss. Don’t want to heat up the kitchen? Me either. That is why I grill my savory summer dip in my cast iron skillet. Let’s get some basics together and get started.

You will need:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 can of 8-10 count artichoke hearts
  • I can of diced green chilis
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 t. chopped garlic (substitute with garlic powder if necessary)
  • Salt and red pepper flakes

Just a couple of staples and an easy and savory dip is at your fingertips.

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge about 20 minutes before mixing this up. It needs to soften. Then a can opener, a knife, a large mixing bowl, a rubber spatula and a cutting board is all we need to get this going.

Squeeze the excess liquid from the artichokes and give them a rough chop.

Before mixing this up, go out and get your grill hot. Then give it a good cleaning with your wire brush. Back in the kitchen get your cast iron skillet out. Mix everything together in a bowl but only use half of the cheese. No need to drain the green chilis-just toss the whole can in and keep mixing. When it is all nice and smooth put your dip into your cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.

Put your dip into an 8 or 10 inch cast iron skillet.

Cover this with foil and take it out to the grill. Turn the heat to medium and place this on the grill. Close the lid and let it get to work.

Cover your dip with foil and put it on the grill.

After about 10 minutes covered remove the foil. This dip is well on its way to bubbly deliciousness! Let this hang out on the grill for another 15 minutes.

And just like that your dip is done. A nice brown crust along the edge and hot all the way through. Perfecto!

Get your chips out. This is ready! Put a trivet out, line up the chips, and get ready to dip into this…well… dip! It’ll be hot and it needs a few minutes to cool down a bit. On the plus side, your hot oven isn’t competing with your air-conditioning in summer mode. Enjoy this with some refreshing summer iced tea or perhaps an ice cold beer.

Grilled Summer Artichoke Dip

8 ounces cream cheese
1 can of 8-10 count artichoke hearts
I can of diced green chilis
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1/2 t. chopped garlic (substitute with garlic powder if necessary)
Salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper (to taste)

About 20 minutes before mixing your dip, take your cream cheese out of the fridge, unwrap it, and place it in a mixing bowl. It needs to soften a bit before assembling the dip. Drain artichoke can and squeeze out additional liquid from the hearts. Roughly chop and put into mixing bowl. Add the sour cream, dices green chilis (undrained) and 1/2 of the parmesan cheese. Mix to incorporate. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Now get the grill going. If using a gas grill, put on medium heat to preheat. Back inside, take out your cast iron skillet and put the dip into it. Spread to even the dip throughout. Add the rest of the parmesan cheese on top. Cover loosely with foil.

Now that the grill is preheated, turn of half of the grill. Place the dip on the heated side. Close lid for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until hot and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Bon appetite!

leftovers from anywhere

31 Dec

With a humble and grateful heart, I am returning from time at a beautiful mountain home of friends.  There were 22 of us staying together, and it was a lovely harmonious bunch.  The house was bursting with adults trying to hold down the fort and kids from 8-21 years of age being, as they should, kids.    There were a lot of personalities present, all meshing beautifully.

Meals were certainly an event.  4 tables fit all of us in one room, so we ate together.  The cacophony of spirited meal conversations happily resonated throughout the house.  With such an array of food and folks, there was no avoiding some “foodie” talk.  This is a topic I dearly love!

We talked about food, budgets, meals, food allergies, and, with a busy family, the challenges of putting together a nutritious and cohesive meal.   Varied information and opinions gently led these conversations.  Low and behold, lingering at the table over some hot cider after dinner one evening, talk turned to what to do with the leftovers.  Anyone who know me know that I am a big fan of leftovers.  They are a great “second act” if you will.

Leftover spinach kale artichoke cheese dip!  Yummier the second day!

Leftover spinach kale artichoke cheese dip! Yummier the second day!

Some of the folks had assembled an amazing appetizer.  It was a hot dip including cream cheese, garlic, mozzarella cheese, artichoke hearts, spinach and kale.  It was fantastic to munch on with chips and veggies as we made dinner.  It was a pretty big batch, so there was some left over.  We also had some cauliflower left, albeit not much.  These were the leftovers that got our creative juices flowing.

leftover cauliflower-so inspiring!

leftover cauliflower-so inspiring!

Both would have made a fabulous omelet the next morning.  The minds and culinary talent present would not be wasted with just one option though.  We forged ahead thinking of more creations with dip and cauliflower.  I credit Robin, one of the sisters (sibling, not nun!!) there with a brilliant thought.  Pizza.  It sounded amazing, but executing this wasn’t clear.  So when I got home, I researched.

What I found with my digging is that you can made a pizza crust with cauliflower.  It needs to be put into a food processor or blender and pulsed to powder form.  About a head of cauliflower will make about 3 cups of cauliflower powder, which is enough for one pizza.  The leftover dip would have been dynamite as the topping!  Voila!  A really cool way to use these leftovers!

I have not tried this yet, but am gearing up to give it a whirl.  See?  You can take leftovers from anywhere and move way beyond just heating them up for another meal.  Make something new.  Let the creative spirit take you in a new exciting direction!  I will keep you posted on this latest culinary adventure and you let me know where your leftovers take you!