Foodie’s Dips and Spreads

Walking through the cracker aisle for saltines, I decided to pick up a couple boxes of snack crackers. I have my favorites and I usually know exactly what I’m going to use for a spread or dip. I mean, you can’t eat a cracker without a spread or something to dip it in. Can you?

I never met a cheese I didn’t like. So today, Foodie presents three dips and spreads with cheese. Their flavors range from zesty to rather mild.

Creamy Horseradish Dip

  • Half pound Velveeta cheese spread, cubed
  • One third cup horseradish sauce or 2 T. horseradish
  • 1 fourth c. milk
  • Microwave ingredients in a one-quart microwave safe bowl on high at 2-minute intervals, stirring each time, until cheese is entirely melted or until you can stir them into a creamy mixture.
  • Makes about 1 and 1/3 cups. Serve with vegetables, chicken nuggets, or chicken fingers. Sometimes I add a dash of hot sauce for a little more kick.

Bacon Cheese Spread

  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 T. finely chopped onion
  • One third c. sour cream
  • 3 slices crisp-cooked bacon, crumbled
  • Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly blended.
  • Makes about 1 one half cups

Serving suggestion

Hot Artichoke and Spinach dip

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • One fourth cup mayonnaise
  • One fourth cup grated parmesan cheese
  • One fourth cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • One fourth t. garlic powder
  • Half t. basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 14 oz. can artichokes, drained and chopped
  • Half cup frozen spinach thawed and thoroughly drained
  • One fourth cup grated mozzarella
  • In a large bowl, beat until smooth the cream cheese and mayonnaise. Blend in the Parmesan and Romano cheeses, garlic, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.
  • Gently stir in the spinach and artichokes. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Transfer mixture to dish. Top with mozzarella and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • In addition to the old standby tortilla chips, pita chips and crusty bread are good choices for dipping in this one.

And here’s one that uses dairy, but not cheese, and adds something fruity to your zesty dip choices.

Fruit Dip

Mix by hand 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream, 1 fourth t. paprika, 2 t. honey and 1 fourth cup crushed pineapple (drained). Chill for about one hour before serving for flavors to blend. You can use the juice from the pineapple to soak apple slices for dipping. Dip the usual fruits or try vanilla wafers. For a sweet/salty taste, dip mini pretzels.

A Shelter-in-Place Challenge For a Foodie

I was walking down the aisle where my grocery store displays the taco seasoning. There it was—a sign hanging next to the shelf tag where the taco seasoning would be. The sign was like many others posted throughout the store and apparently, taco seasoning was a high demand item.

This was my first trip to the store since my state’s executive order had been issued on March 24th. Taco seasoning wasn’t on my list (although toilet paper was because I was down to my last roll. That’s a story for another time). I needed something else in that aisle. I gotta tell you, that sign made me chuckle.

If you had quizzed me on what would be the highest demand items in the store, I would never have guessed taco seasoning. Taco seasoning? What? Is everyone now eating tacos instead of SpaghettiOs?

Anyway, this coronavirus pandemic creates all kinds of challenges. Especially for taco lovers, I guess.

Now, I like tacos as much as the next person, but being who I am, I don’t even buy taco seasoning anymore. It’s one of those things I mix up in my own kitchen from ingredients right in my pantry. If you’ve been reading my foodie blog posts at all, you know I cook/bake/create from scratch (and sometimes by-guess-and-by-golly). So, in case you want tacos and your store is out of pre-packaged seasoning, here’s a recipe for making your own.

Taco seasoning and pumpkin pie seasoning

Bonus? You’ll know exactly what’s in it. **

“Clean” Taco Seasoning Mix

  • 1/ 2 cup + 1 T. chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp.  ground pepper (not coarse)
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano

Mix up all the ingredients and store the stuff in a glass container. It keeps as long as any spice would when kept out of heat or moisture. For each one pound of meat you use, add 2 1/ 2 Tbsp. seasoning. This recipe makes a small batch of mild seasoning. If you like it spicier, you can add a little more chili powder or even red pepper flakes. Use it to make your tacos just like you would the store-bought kind.

While we’re at it making homemade mixes, here’s one for making cornbread mix. Its taste is identical to commercial cornbread mixes and it doesn’t have weird additives. **

“Clean” Cornbread Mix

  • 1 1/ 2 c. flour
  • 1/ 4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/ 2 c. cornmeal
  • 1 1/ 2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 3/ 4 tsp. baking soda

 Blend the ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Then, to make cornbread, mix the Clean Cornbread Mix with 1 1/ 2 cup milk, 1 1/ 2 cup vegetable oil, and 3 large eggs.

So when Taco Tuesday rolls around, you’ll have your own seasoning mix and all you need are your tortillas (or shells) plus all those fresh ingredients you like. And if you’re making chili, try your taco seasoning in that too. Just add it little by little until it comes out to your personal taste. Then make some cornbread because that always goes well with chili. Right?

Or you could have SpaghettiOs. Eat hearty!

** Small print. I check labels and this is what I found for two brand name prepackaged products you now have recipes for.

French’s® Taco Seasoning Mix. Spices and herbs, Salt, Corn starch, Dehydrated onion, Dehydrated garlic, Sugar, Citric acid, Paprika extractives, Silicon dioxide.

Jiffy® Cornbread Mix ingredients: Wheat flour, degerminated yellow corn meal, sugar, animal shortening (lard, hydrogenated lard, tocopherols preservative, BHT preservative, citric acid preservative). Contains less than 2% of each of the following: baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate, salt, wheat starch. Niacin, reduced iron, tricalcium phosphate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, silicon dioxide.

 

 

Foodie Friday: 8 More Ways to Use Herbs

Last week’s Foodie Friday post offered ten ways to use herbs. We saw tips on how to enhance the flavors of different meats and for creating your own seasoning blends. This time, let’s look at those same ideas for pasta and vegetables.

When working with pasta, you can add new twists to familiar tastes. For instance:

  • Using ground nutmeg smooths out the flavor of Alfredo sauce. Ground mustard, rosemary, parsley and black pepper go well with savory mushroom sauces. Sprinkle tarragon over a primavera recipe.
  • Thyme, rosemary, oregano leaves, garlic powder, and black pepper are good with any pasta salad recipe. Here’s a fruity take on pasta salad. Italian seasoning, basil, crushed red pepper, garlic and onion powders, and oregano give hearty flavor to pasta soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • The several varieties of sauces we use for pasta work well depending on the type of noodle used. Shape and size determine the best choices. Capellini, angel hair, fettuccine, linguini and spaghetti work the best with smooth, thin sauces or sauces with chopped ingredients. Shaped pasta like mostaccioli, penne, rotelle, rotini and ziti are best used with chunky and heavier sauces. Large shells and manicotti lend themselves well to being stuffed with a hearty red sauce or cheese sauce.
  • If you’ve never tried making your own pesto sauce, try this easy recipe which goes well with those finer pastas like angel hair, fettuccine, linguini and spaghetti.

Whether your vegetable dish is a salad or you’re dressing up baked or steamed veggies, herbs will prove a welcome addition.

  • Potato salads, green salads, vegetable salads perk up with dill weed, celery salt, paprika, and white or black pepper. For a new sensation, use lemon pepper seasoning on green leafy vegetables like salad greens, spinach, kale, mustard, collard or mustard greens. Season corn, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash with ginger, cardamom, dill weed, chives, onion powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace, marjoram, or thyme.

When it comes to fish, they fall into categories of mild, moderate and full flavors as other meats do.

  • For delicately flavored fish like flounder, sole, orange roughy, or trout, enhance them with thyme, tarragon, dill weed, garlic powder, oregano or white or black pepper. The moderate flavors of salmon, snapper, catfish and rock fish peak up with dill weed, Italian seasoning, tarragon, lemon and pepper seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, or pepper. Tuna and swordfish are full-flavored fish. They wake up to the addition of basil, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme, garlic powder, and red or black pepper. Tilapia With Corn Salsa satisfies a craving for Mexican food.
  • When cooking shrimp or scallops or for creating any seafood recipe, try tarragon, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, lemon pepper, red or black pepper or parsley. Whether steaming crabs or broiling lobster, the unique flavors of dry mustard, red pepper, lemon pepper and chives work well.
  • Substitutions are helpful to know because, when you’re out of something fresh, something from your cupboard comes in handy. For 1 medium-sized onion, use 1 tablespoon onion powder. One eighth teaspoon garlic powder. One half teaspoon garlic salt is a substitute for 1 medium clove of garlic. Substitute one fourth teaspoon ginger for 1 teaspoon fresh ginger. In general, for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon dried herbs.

It may sound strange, but this Spinach Chicken Manicotti uses nutmeg and basil along with the main ingredients.

 And a fast, easy tuna dish, Tuna Crescent Rings.

Remember to have fun while you navigate the kitchen and try new herb combinations. You might even decide you’d like to start your own herb garden. Then you’ll really be a Foodie!

 

 

photo credits Taste of Home

 

 

 

Foodie Friday: 10 Ways to Use Herbs

Something great happened the day I decided to be brave and begin experimenting with herbs and spices. I still use recipes, especially for baking. But cooking “by guess and by golly” is generally pretty much how I do it. Now I enjoy cooking much more. I also enjoy the results more.

For instance, I never make my famous spaghetti sauce the same way twice. I may be using the same herbs, but never in the same amounts, and it always turns out tasty. More than one person has said I should market it.

However, knowing a little about which spices and herbs work well with different foods can help. It can also be a boon to have some spice blends on hand to use so you don’t have to buy those small bottles and packets with additives and cranked up cost.

Add These to This to Get That

  • To enhance the flavor of beef, use bay leaves, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, lemon pepper seasoning, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, or thyme.
  • When cooking with pork, which has a mild flavor, give it some oomph with basil, caraway seed, ground ginger, Italian seasoning, oregano, savory, rosemary, or garlic powder.
  • Where I live, we eat wild game. Enhance those flavors with marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, garlic powder, or onion powder.
  • Turkey is traditionally flavored with poultry seasoning or sage, but you can also try oregano, black pepper, herbs de Provence, onion powder, rosemary, savory, or basil.
  • Chicken and Cornish hens come alive with such herbs as dill weed, basil, ginger, oregano, thyme, chives, bay leaf, garlic and onion powders, paprika, rosemary, sage, or tarragon.

Make Your Own Seasoning Blends

If you need a little jump start to try some new herbs, here are a few blends you can mix up to experiment with.

  • Salad herb blend: 2 tsp. basil leaves; 1 tsp. dill weed; 1 tbsp. marjoram leaves; 1 tbsp. parsley flakes; 1 tbsp. tarragon leaves. If you like to add protein to your salad, match these ingredients to the list of which goes best with each herb.
  • Meat and vegetable blend: 1 tbsp. basil; 1 tsp. celery seed; 1 tbsp. marjoram; 1 tsp. onion powder; 1 tsp. thyme.
  • Taco seasoning: 1 ½ tbsp. oregano; 1 ½ tbsp. garlic powder; 1 tbsp. paprika; 2 tbsp. cumin; 1 tbsp. chili powder; ½ tsp. allspice.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and tweak the blends to your own taste. There’s no right or wrong combination. An advantage to using herbs and blends is that you can spice up your food without using salt.

What’s That Flavor?

Herbs naturally have different flavors. In addition, they fall into categories of mild, medium and robust. Chives and parsley are examples of mild-flavored herbs. Some medium-flavored herbs are basil, dill weed, marjoram, and mint. Stronger-tasting herbs are those like bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme.

 Tips for Keeping Herbs and Spices Fresh

  •  Avoid storing spices near the stove, dishwasher, sink or a window. Dried spices don’t spoil, but they can lose strength. Moisture and heat contribute to this. Be sure to never sprinkle or pour spices directly into a steaming pot since the steam introduced into the bottle hastens loss of flavor and aroma. It also results in caking. For the same reason, if you’re measuring from the bottle with a measuring spoon, be sure the spoon is dry.
  • Some folks like to use fresh herbs for everything and that’s a great idea. You can always substitute dried herbs for fresh if you know how, and vice-versa. Check it out here.

Next week, you’ll get ideas for enhancing other foods like pasta, vegetables and seafood. We’ll also have suggestions for substitutions, cooking tips, and a recipe or two.

Bon appetite!

25 Simple Foodie Pleasures

We putter around the kitchen. We experiment with new recipes. We share a recipe with someone. When the kids are hungry, we get busy and feed them. Over the years, we accumulate cook books, gadgets and experience.

Foodies are usually well-versed in culinary activities. We share kitchen tips with others who enjoy baking and cooking. We’re also really fun to be with.

How many of these Simple Foodie Pleasures do you enjoy? Which ones would you add?

 

 

 

  1. Finding a new recipe that requires ingredients you already have in the pantry
  2. Using place mats and cloth napkins when having someone over for lunch
  3. Washing fruit, then seeing those pretty, clean colors mingle in a clear glass bowl
  4. Experiencing a new flavor or an ethnic dish never before tried
  5. Finding the bay leaf in a bowl of stew
  6. No-bake cookies
  7. Baked macaroni and cheese
  8. Anything homemade, especially pie
  9. Eating an occasional mushroom Swiss burger and the juices drip down your chin
  10. Slow-roasted rather than slow cooker
  11. Enough counter space in which to work
  12. When the bread rises just right
  13. Good conversation around the table
  14. Sharing a recipe with someone. Then they share it with someone
  15. Hasselback potatoes that come out just right
  16. At least 5 things you can do with a bountiful crop of zucchini
  17. Wearing a favorite apron
  18. Preparing some finger-licking good southern fried chicken
  19. A steak grilled to the exact doneness you like
  20. Greek kebabs and pita wedges with tzatziki
  21. Learning how to make perfect fried green tomatoes
  22. Pie crust that rolls out nicely and turns out flaky
  23. Buying fresh veggies from the local farmers’ market
  24. Eating some flaky beignets, baklava, or croissants (better yet, knowing how to make them)
  25. Eating well, but not getting stuffed

Eat Hearty

Foodie Cookie Exchange

If you’re one of the special (and lucky) people who participate in holiday cookie exchanges, I’ll bet you’ve already begun to haul out the mixing bowls, cookie sheets, and wooden spoons.

My experience with cookie exchanges is like this: “Help!”

Okay, to be fair, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also worth it. My ladies’ small groups met one winter night to bring cookies, fudge, and brownies to share. The idea was to bring a dozen (or more) cookies to share and we all got to select a dozen (or more). The tables were so full and the choices were so varied. How do you make up your mind?

I guess that’s another opportunity to say, “Help!”

I’m sure you have favorites you like to make, including the traditional choices and family must-haves. If you want to try something new, try these. I especially like the coal ones because it’s such a cute idea and I like chocolate, of course. These are richer than the usual crispy treat variety, don’t look as dark, and take a bit more time, but again, worth it. Both recipes require a dough from the fridge or freezer. The shortbread cookies require baking, but maybe you want the oven hot so it’s all nice and cozy while you sip hot chocolate.

Funfetti Shortbread Bites

  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. red and green nonpareils or sprinkles

Cream together the sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter until combined. Add the flour and mix well. Transfer dough to a large bowl and knead until it’s nicely formed. Add nonpareils and knead again to combine them well. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 325º.

On waxed paper, roll dough into a 1/2″-thick square. Freeze 15 minutes. Cut dough into 1/2″ squares and transfer to a large baking sheet. Bake until cookies are golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

Oreo Coal Cookie Bites

  • 40 Oreos
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. semisweet or melting chocolate
  • 1/3 c. Oreo cookies, crushed or cocoa powder, for dusting

Grind the Oreos into crumbs, using a blender or food processor. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl, add the cream cheese, and mix together. (A fork works well for this.)

Form balls using about one tablespoon of the Oreo mixture, making them misshapen like a lump of coal. Place them on a plate and into the fridge for about 30 minutes, up to 1 hour to become firm. Microwave the melting chocolate or morsels in 10 to 15 second increments until smooth.

With a fork or toothpick, dip each Oreo ball into the melted chocolate, then set onto parchment paper. Sprinkle immediately with crumbs from Oreos. If using cocoa powder, once the balls are chilled and firm, dip your fingers into the cocoa and lightly rub onto Oreo balls to complete the “coal” look. Store balls in the fridge until ready to serve.

Stay safe and sane and enjoy your holiday season. Eat hardy.

Foodie Sipping Hot Chocolate

It’s that time of year In my neck of the woods, now and all through winter, we like to drink hot chocolate. I like mine made from scratch (naturally). It’s easy to mix up a batch from a container of baking cocoa, sugar (or your choice of sweetener), and milk.

In the Midwest, we might still be having bonfires in our  back yards or that of a friend. Think “s’mores.” Think “roasted marshmallows on a stick.” Think “hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows.”

But try to think in a different vein.

If candy manufacturers can add a twist to their chocolate confections, why not do the same to your cup of hot chocolate? I like chocolate with raspberries or cherries and I’m game for just about anything when it comes to chocolate. Try giving your hot chocolate a little zip with one of these suggestions.

Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.

Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these adds that homespun flavor.

Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight. It reminds me of the chocolate “oranges” in the fancy Christmas packages.

Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh-brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.

Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold. Peppermint also calms an upset tummy.

Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter, take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix well until it melts. Chunky or ‘natural’ with the oil on top is probably not a good idea, right?

Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in. I like hot sauce, but admit this choice isn’t for the faint of heart.

Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that just-in-case jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. It tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.

Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of pure maple syrup livens up ordinary hot chocolate.

If you’re interested in making a single cup of cocoa for yourself, Epicurious has a recipe for that.

Make your own hot chocolate mix to have on hand whenever you want a cup. The Pioneer Woman has a recipe which is easy and makes a really creamy concoction you can share as gifts.

So, cozy up in your chair or in front of the fireplace with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Boy, I think I’ll go make a cup right now.

Foodie Dips Into the Holidays

Foods that often turn up at a get-together are dips accompanying a chip of some kind. Right? But what if you’re tired of store-bought dips and want to bring one that’s as easy to prepare as it tasty?

The holiday season upon us, we’ll be invited to work, family, church, and other sorts of buffets. Foodie Friday helps out with a handful (not literally) of recipes featuring ease of prep and variety to boot.

Not to say men can’t be great cooks, but even the average guy who wants to show off a little can whip up a simple dip. In fact, the first recipe on the list comes from a man I used to work with. People raved over this dip from our department’s Christmas soiree and I was smart enough to ask for his recipe. (Thanks, Jerry!)

Seafood Dip

  • 2 T. dry onions
  • 2 T. water
  • 1 large can Albacore tuna, drained
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (fat-free, if preferred)
  • 1 T. hot sauce
  • 2 t. parsley flakes
  • 2 T. chili sauce
  • 2 T. horseradish

Mix dry onions and water together and let sit while mixing remaining ingredients. Blend onions into tuna mixture. Chill before serving.

Seafood dip made with salmon and plain yogurt

You can also use the same amount of red salmon in place of tuna. For either kind of seafood, be sure to drain it completely (“smash” it with a fork if you have to in order to get all the moisture out). Flake it so that it stirs in evenly.

Creamy Hot Artichoke Dip

  • 1 14-oz. jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 c. low fat mayonnaise
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients and bake uncovered at 350 degrees or until heated through. Serve warm. Although it’s better baked because you can get a nice brown crust on top, this dip can be prepared in one of those mini crock pots too. That will make it easier to transport and keep it warm once you get it to its destination. That’s also a great idea in summer when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen.

Veggie Dip

  • 1 c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ c. minced onion
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • ½ t. garlic powder
  • 1 t. dill weed
  • ½ t. cumin

Whisk all ingredients together. Chill before serving. This dip is also pretty good on baked potatoes.

Serving suggestions: Naturally, dips are great with chips of some kind. Depending on the dip, select pita chips, corn chips, veggie chips, or Fritos. Some work well when spread on crackers. You might even discover a dip that works like a condiment in a wrap or pita pocket.

I like when a recipe doesn’t require fancy ingredients, especially when the ingredients called for don’t cost a lot. Move past the French onion and ranch dips and go bolder! You may come up with a winner like my friend, Jerry. Try substituting plain nonfat Greek yogurt for the mayo or cream cheese if you like. The consistency will be different (and you’ll have to really mash out the liquid in canned seafood), but you’ll have less fat and more protein.

And here are a couple bonus selections from the Iowa Girl. A fruit dip and Southwestern Black Bean Dip.

Eat hardy!

 

Hey Foodie, Say “Cheese”

I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like.

It could be that someday a new taste will not sit well with me in that dairy category, but so far, cheese has always made me smile. Like Little Miss Muffet, I even like my curds and whey.**

Here in my area of the planet, it’s autumn and getting chillier outside every day. We naturally begin to add comfort foods to the menu which we might not have eaten during the hot summer days.

Like soup. Chicken soup, chili, bean soup, pea soup. Nothing like a steaming bowl of homemade soup or stew.

I’ll keep my pie hole closed for most of this post and give you a couple recipes using cheese. These come right out of my recipe box (stained 3×5 cards and all). First, the soup, featuring two favorite foods.about-cheese

Cheddar and Bacon Soup

  • 6 slices bacon cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2/3 c. chopped onion
  • 2 T. flour
  • 3 c. shredded cheese (I use cheddar)
  • 1 quart milk
  • ¼ t. pepper

In a medium saucepan, fry the bacon over medium heat until browned and crisp. Reduce heat to low. Add onions and sauté about 5 minutes or until onions are tender.

Stir in flour; cook one minute. Stir in milk. Raise heat to medium-high. Add cheese and cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until cheese is melted and soup is heated through (about 10 minutes). Do Not Boil! Add the pepper; stir until mixed. Yields about 6 1-cup servings

Now for a quick appetizer for snacking on crackers while you cuddle up in your recliner to watch a good movie. Or “Walking Dead,” if that’s your thing. This spread also tastes good on a sandwich with tomato. Use whole grain bread, an English muffin, croissant, bagel thins or whatever you like. You know me, I throw it together and see what comes out.

Pimiento Cheese Spread

  • 2 7-oz. jars sliced pimientos, drained
  • 3 8 oz. bricks sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 c. mayonnaise

Place the drained pimientos in a blender or food processor and puree them until almost smooth. In a very large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the cheese and pimiento, beating until partially blended. Beat in the mayonnaise.

The spread can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. Allow the spread to reach room temperature before serving. Yields about 32 servings, 2 T. each.

Don’t forget the family favorite: grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Or homemade macaroni and cheese. Loaded baked potatoes. Big old cheeseburgers, and, well you get the idea. In my world, any time is a great time for a dish made with cheese.

Eat hardy!

*Cottage Cheese

Foodies Can Make Their Own Stuff

It’s a great idea to keep your own stash of cooking mixes handy. I prefer to make my own with the ingredients I have right in my pantry. I save money that way and I know what’s in my mixes. Most of the time, with a minimum of preservatives. Here’s some DIY mixes I have on hand all the time, with the exception of those that require cooking or preparation immediately for the dish I’m making.

Taco Seasoning (mild)

  • ½ c. + 1 T. chili powder
  • 3 T. cumin
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 T. ground pepper
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 2 T. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano

For a spicier mix, add up to 2 tsp. red pepper flakes or up to 2 tsp. more of the chili powder. Use 2 ½ Tbsp. seasoning for each pound of meat. Stores well in a plastic zipper bag or small jar.

Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot Cocoa Mix

  • 2 c. non-fat dry milk
  • ½ c. baking cocoa
  • 1 c. sugar (or substitute)
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use as much as you need for your individual taste per cup.

 

 

Seasoned Baking Mix (for meat)

  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • ½ c. flour
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients and store the mixture in a resealable container or zipper bag. This will keep in the pantry up to four months, depending on the humidity. It’s okay to freeze or refrigerate this mix. Easily doubled or tripled. Use recipe one cup at a time as you would the commercial mix. I like to dip my chicken in a mixture of ½ c. milk (or buttermilk, which you can also make yourself) and one beaten egg. I also make my own bread crumbs using stale bread or the crusts of bread by pulverizing them in a blender. The crumbs can be stored in the fridge too for use in other recipes.

  Hot Fudge Topping

Left: Pumpkin Pie Spice
Right: Taco Seasoning

  •   1 c. sugar
  •   2 Tbsp. flour
  •   3 Tbsp. cocoa
  •   1 c. milk
  •   1 tsp. vanilla
  •   Salt to taste

Combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan. Add cold milk gradually, stirring constantly and cook until thickened. Just before it thickens, add the vanilla.

Enchilada Sauce

  • 3 c. chicken broth                                      1 tsp. cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. salt                                                 3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 heaping tsp. garlic powder                   1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 tsp sugar or substitute                      1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano                                            8 oz. can tomato paste
  • 5 Tbsp. cold water                                     5 Tbsp. flour

In a 2 quart saucepan, blend broth, cumin, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, cocoa, oregano, and sugar. Whisk to blend well. As mixture is heating, slowly blend in the tomato paste. Heat to boiling, then quickly reduce heat to a low boil. Cook for 3 minutes more. Whisk frequently to thoroughly dissolve spices.

While sauce simmers, make a thickener adding flour to the water 1 tablespoon at a time. (Whisk or shake vigorously in a shaker to avoid lumps.) Use more flour as needed. While sauce is at a low boil, add thickener, stirring constantly. If sauce forms a skin while cooling, peel it off and toss it. This particular homemade specialty will impress you and your family or guests. It’s much tastier and, like I said, you know what’s in it.

Eazy Peazy Pizza Crust

1 ½ c. Baking mix              1/3 c. boiling water

Make a soft dough from the mix and water, using a little flour to keep dough from being too sticky. Boiling the water is what will make the crust more chewy and flavorful. Makes enough for one pizza or 4 six-inch pizzas, depending on how thick you like your crust. If you know how to make your own baking mix, all the better.

Just for Fun: The Classic English Breakfast

Eggs, Sausage, Bacon, Toast, Mushrooms, Beans, Sliced tomatoes, and of course, Tea.