Monday, January 20, 2020

Juniper Baked Pimiento Cheese Dip

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If you are anything like me, i.e. someone who enjoys reading new recipes, then you are probably as eager as I am every Wednesday for the food section in the local paper, whether you read it digitally or a hard-copy. And, if, also like me, you are a fan of pimento cheese, have I got a recipe for you!

Juniper, a Southern Table and Bar, in downtown St. Louis offered up their recipe for this zippy, flavorful pimiento cheese that is baked. Like all pimiento cheese, it is easy to put together, and, as I always do, make it easy on myself by using
Melissa’s Fire Roasted Sweet Bell Peppers rather than roasting my own (as they suggested in their recipe). One taste, and this quickly rose to my top five favorite pimiento cheeses, in a list that boasts more than two dozen varieties.

Here is my adaptation of their recipe. While this one is baked, it is just as good cold, and has as many uses as you can imagine, including being stuffed into celery, dolloped on top of a burger or hotdog, added to a steaming bowl of chili or tomato soup, or simply as the hot dip that it was intended. Juniper includes pickles among their dippers, as well as a type of bread that is similar to pita or to the Indian bread naan. Choose your favorites here. There is no end to the way that you can enjoy this.
Juniper Baked Pimiento Cheese Dip
Slightly adapted from the original in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Yield: 8 servings (as if!)

Melissa’s Fire Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper, minced
¼ pound yellow cheddar cheese
¼ pound white cheddar cheese
¼ cup
Duke’s mayonnaise
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon
smoked paprika (no substitutions!)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon
Crystal hot sauce
1 tablespoon garlic-dill pickle juice
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons cornbread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

The dip is baked and served in cast iron at Juniper, which helps it retain heat. You may use individual 6- or
8-ounce ramekins for this appetizer. Adjust the timing of the baking accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF, or 325ºF for glass pans.

Grate the cold cheddar cheeses using the large holes on a box grater or a food processor fitted with a grating disc. Toss the cheeses together in a mixing bowl. Add the diced red peppers and fold into the cheese.

In a separate mixing bowl, blend the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. Stir the mix into the cheeses. Add hot sauce and pickle juice and stir to blend evenly. Taste. Add salt if needed.
Transfer the mixed dip into a 1-½ quart baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove and top with cornbread crumbs. Return to the oven and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly. Top with chopped parsley. Serve with assorted pickles, breads or crackers.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Easy Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

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I am not a particular fan of ice cream, so I tend to not keep it on hand. That said, when I do get a hankering for it, I want it, and I want it now! Fortunately, it is so easy to make myself, that it’s never a problem to satisfy that craving, as long as I have an hour or two to give it a chance to firm up in the freezer. The other day I had a serious craving for strawberry ice cream. You may not think that’s unusual, but let me tell you it is so unusual that I don’t think I’ve ever had strawberry ice cream before. Naturally, I had to make some, and it was so good! This recipe is super simple, and requires no tricky custard making on top of the stove. You simply whip cream, and fold it with the rest of the ingredients, and then put it into the freezer until it’s ready. Yum!
Easy Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 T. vanilla extract
1 c. frozen strawberries, rough chopped
Red food coloring, optional
2 cups heavy cream

Combine the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla in a large bowl; stir in strawberries and food coloring, if desired. Beat 2 cups heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into strawberry mixture. Pour into a
9” x 5” loaf pan. Cover, and freeze 6 hours or until firm.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

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I have a friend who, like me, doesn’t like to bake. As a consequence, we torment each other with various delicious looking recipes for baked goods. When she sent me the recipe for this orange cranberry cake, featuring this beautiful Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt pan, I couldn’t resist. Not only did I buy the pan and the release spray, I also made the cake. I sent her pictures along the way, because she was as curious as I was as to whether or not this pan, like so many others have failed to do, would release the cake in one piece, to be consumed in all its elegant glory, instead of finding itself as a layer in a trifle.
As you can see from the pictures, happily it did come out just beautifully. But, I’m not going to lie, this cake was a lot of work! Because baking gets on my nerves, I did it in stages throughout the day. Measuring dry ingredients and setting them aside, getting out wet ingredients, setting them aside, making the cranberries, making the orange sugar, you get the picture.
It was worth every ounce of energy that I put into it. Not only am I extremely proud of my efforts, but my friend deemed it as “fabulous” as it is beautiful. It is loaded with flavor (I must confess that I replaced the orange juice in the glaze in the original recipe found here, with orange liquor, because I can never leave well enough alone) — sweet, tart, refreshing, complex, and certainly elegant enough to serve for company. Make it if you dare!
Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake


2½ c. flour
¾ t. baking powder
¼ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 T. fresh orange zest
10 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 c. low-fat buttermilk, room temperature
¼ c. cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 t. vanilla extract
1¼ c. fresh cranberries, chopped

Sugared Cranberries

2 T. sugar
2 T. water
½ c. fresh cranberries
¼ c. sugar


2/3 c. powdered sugar
1/8 t. salt
1½ T. fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a 10-cup Bundt pan generously with nonstick spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; reserve one tablespoon flour mixture to toss with cranberries.

Combine sugar and orange zest in a food processor and pulse for 1 minute; combine with butter in a large mixer bowl and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add eggs one at a time. Combine buttermilk, orange juice, and vanilla in a small bowl. Beat in flour mixture in three additions, alternating with buttermilk mixture (begin and end with flour mixture), just until incorporated. Toss cranberries with reserved flour mixture and gently fold into batter.

Spoon batter into prepared Bundt pan and smooth with an offset spatula. Tap pan sharply to reduce air bubbles. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until cake is golden, springs back to the touch, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes; carefully invert onto rack and cool completely.

While the cake bakes, make the sugared cranberries. Place a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add cranberries to the saucepan and coat completely in the simple syrup. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cranberries to the wire rack. Separate the cranberries into a single layer, spaced 1-inch apart. Let dry for 1 hour, then roll the cranberries in sugar to coat. Transfer to a clean baking sheet and let dry for 1 hour before using.

For the glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, salt, and orange juice in a small bowl. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake and let set before topping with sugared cranberries and serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, January 13, 2020

PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION: Campbell's Skillet Sauces, Thai Curry Chicken

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It’s not often that I have a product recommendation, but I’m going to recommend this one, because I think it is darned good.

Over the holidays, I had no interest in cooking. Unfortunately, I continued to have an interest in eating. One night, I fell down the rabbit hole that is Amazon (you know, you search for one thing, and then Amazon suggests things that they think you may like — you always do — and three hours later you’ve placed an order), and was exploring offerings on Prime Pantry. During the winter, a.k.a. flu season, I don’t like to leave the house, and order a lot of pantry staples online. Generally, you will find me barricaded in my home, wearing surgical gloves and mask, spraying my nostrils with
Ocean Spray, diffusing rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils, drinking gallons of orange juice, and noshing on homemade chicken noodle soup. After a while, however, that gets a little old, and I want something with a little zing.

On a whim, I bought this Campbell's Skillet Sauces, Thai Curry Chicken. The reviews looked good, but as someone who cooks all of the time, I know that my expectations can often be a little higher than people who eat convenience food as a routine.
Having implemented my new austerity program beginning January 1, along with my new work ethic program — clean three things a day, organize three things a day, make three things a day, discard/donate three things today — (that is keeping me more tired than I ever imagined), I decided to give the skillet meal a try. It can be on the table in under 30 minutes, even if you, like I did, make my homemade lime cilantro rice. But don’t feel obligated to spend any time on the rice; you can make Minute Rice, microwave rice, standard cooked rice, and if you want to add flavor to it, chop up cilantro and stir it in when it’s finished.  If you want to add flavor but don’t want to chop, toss in a couple of fresh basil leaves. I had purchased chicken already cut into strips, so after I heated my oil I just tossed it into the pan.

I did not have high hopes, but this is really good. It has a decent amount of heat, but not too much, lots of flavor, couldn’t be easier, and satisfied my taste for Thai food. Serve it with naan, and a side of chutney (I used favorites
cranberry and mango), and you have yourself a wonderful meal. I found this made two main dish servings.

Campbell’s Thai Curry Chicken. Highly recommended!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Jalapeño Popper Bread

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Earlier when I posted the recipe for Homemade Garlic Butter (that you all seemed to like, thanks for that), I told you that I was going to be using it in another recipe later in the week. True to my word, here it is! I cannot possibly describe how good this jalapeño popper bread is. It gives you all of the flavor of poppers, without the hassle of actually having to stuff those little peppers. Further, it is a wonderful spread on toast, and an incredibly good dip for apples. I have become positively obsessed with it, having enjoyed it with apples, every night for the past week as a snack. You might consider doubling, or even tripling this recipe. Yep, it’s that good.
Pair it with a bowl of Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup and you have one heck of a hearty and satisfying meal.
Jalapeño Popper Bread

1 loaf of French bread*
½ c
. garlic butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sour cream
½ c. chopped
Melissa’s Pickled Jalapeño Peppers
¼ t. kosher salt
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 c. grated Fontina cheese

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a pan with parchment paper or foil; set aside. Slice bread in half lengthwise and place, cut side up, on the pan. Spread both pieces with the softened garlic butter and bake for five minutes.

In a medium bowl, beat together remaining ingredients EXCEPT cheese. Remove the toasted bread from the oven and slather both pieces with the cream cheese mixture; top with grated Fontina cheese. Dot the top with slices of jalapeño, if desired. Return to the oven and bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven, and let stand five minutes before slicing and serving.

*I make this in individual slices using a rustic bread, in this case, Pane Turano from Aldi.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Homemade Garlic Butter

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If you like garlic bread as much as I do, but don’t like the hassle of making it, have I got a recipe for you! Homemade garlic butter is a wonderful thing to have on hand. Slather it on a split loaf of French bread, run it under the broiler, done in no time it will be eagerly consumed by your fellow diners. If you want to perk up a rather dull vegetable, toss it with your favorite, and this will add loads of taste. Did I mention how delicious this is melted on top of an Idaho baker? Heaven! I have even been known, in desperation, to spread it on a saltine cracker as a snack. Frankly, I hate being without it. So feel free to double or even triple the recipe depending upon the size of your family. You would be wise to make this now, because I’m going to be using it in a recipe later in the week that you are definitely going to want to try.

Homemade Garlic Butter

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cloves garlic, minced*
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
¾ t. dried fresh basil
¾ t. dried parsley
1/8 t. dried oregano
½ t. Kosher salt
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl beat butter until light and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients, beating until well blended. Transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It can also be frozen for up to a year. Although you may be tempted, do not use fresh herbs, unless you plan to consume this within a couple of days.

*If you don’t feel like mincing your own, I have often used
Melissa’s Minced Garlic in place of the real thing.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Pasta with Spinach and Morels

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We are months away from morel mushroom season, and yet today I had a hankering that wouldn’t quit. Thank goodness for Melissa’s and their packages of dried morel mushrooms. Thirty minutes of hydration, and they were ready to go. Using one pan, and 20 minutes of cooking time, I made a hearty, woodsy, ever so satisfying pasta dish that had me longing for spring. It’s perfect for when you don’t have a lot of time, is company worthy, will certainly please the vegetarians, and is versatile enough where, if you would like to swap the spinach for another green vegetable, say peas, broccoli, or brussels sprouts, you can certainly do so. Feel free to make this appeal to your meat lovers by adding slices of broiled chicken. You can’t go wrong with this dish.
Pasta with Spinach and Morels

1 T. olive oil
1 1-oz. pkg. Melissa’s dried morels
1 large clove fresh garlic, minced
Pinch Montreal Steak Seasoning
8 oz. spaghetti
2 T. butter
2 c. homemade chicken stock
1 c. whole milk
1-2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ c. chopped fresh parsley

Hydrate mushrooms according to package directions. In a 12-inch skillet (I used my square 12-inch copper chef pan), heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Toss in mushrooms and garlic, and stir for one minute. Add steak seasoning, pasta, butter, chicken stock, milk, spinach, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, put the lid on the pan, and set the timer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes are up, remove lid, sprinkle Parmesan on top of the pasta along with the chopped parsley, and toss until the cheese is melted. Serve.