Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Lee Brothers’ Pimiento Cheese

When I was in grade school, the cafeteria ladies used to serve something called Cheese Salad. It was some sort of cheesy comestible served between two pieces of white bread; I loved it. When I would come home and try to explain to my mother what this was, she did not know what I was talking about (this was not usual). As I got older, I learned that it was really pimiento cheese, and thus my lifetime love affair began. As a consequence of my love, I am determined to try absolutely every recipe that crosses my path. This one is from cookbook authors Matt and Ted Lee, known as the Lee Brothers. I’d like to say that it is my favorite variety of pimiento cheese thus far, but truth be told, every bowl of pimiento cheese is my favorite. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I took liberties with this recipe. All I had on hand by way of cheddar was an 8-ounce block of smoked cheddar, so I used it. Oh, mama! Is this ever good. So, follow their recipe, or change things up a bit and do what I did, then you can spread it on crackers, use it as a dip for crudités, or enjoy it as I did back in the day, slathered between two pieces of white bread. Me? I really don’t need any vehicle to move pimiento cheese into my mouth. All I need is a spoon.
The Lee Brothers’ Pimiento Cheese

8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup cream cheese (2 ounces), softened, diced
Scant 1/2 cup Melissa’s Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers (from a 7-ounce jar), finely diced
tablespoons Duke’s mayonnaise
½ teaspoon dried red chile flakes
Salt and freshly ground black

In a large mixing bowl, place the cheddar cheese in an even layer. Scatter the cream cheese, peppers, mayonnaise, and chile flakes over the cheddar cheese. Using a spatula, mix the pimiento cheese until it is smooth and spreadable, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Transfer the pimiento cheese to a plastic container or bowl, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. Pimiento cheese keeps in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Another favorite pimiento cheese is Tupelo Honey Café’s Pimento Cheese. Try it!

For more tasty southern recipes from the Lee Brothers, I recommend this cookbook:

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Mexican Coffee Smoothie

By now, you all should be drinking and enjoying cold brew coffee, because I told you how to make it here. And because I’m sure that you all have some in your fridge, you are going to want to begin your celebration of National Cold Brew Coffee Day with a Mexican Coffee Smoothie. It is eye opening-ly delicious, spectacularly refreshing, and so full of coffee and chocolate goodness that it works equally well at breakfast as it does dessert. With a decided Mexican leaning, with the combination of coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon, you can also use it to start your day on Cinco de Mayo. I love a recipe that does double duty.
Mexican Coffee Smoothie

3/4 cups cold brew
1-1/2 cups coffee ice cubes
6 ounces vanilla Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
Pinch of cinnamon

Put all ingredients into a bullet blender and blend until combined. Serve in a Pilsner
topped with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup.

To refresh your memory, please see this tutorial on how to make cold brew coffee.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Steak with Peppercorn Sauce

The whole time I was eating dinner tonight, I couldn’t help but think of Jim. He loved a good steak in a tasty sauce, particularly one that took as little effort as possible. This recipe is just that. It’s from Clotilde Dusoulier’s new book Tasting Paris: 100 Recipes to Eat Like a Local. Pair this steak with a couple of microwaveable side dishes as I did, and dinner can be on the table in 15 minutes, and an elegant one at that.

This is one of those recipes that I am going to turn to again and again, because there’s really nothing to it. You sear a steak on both sides, continue to cook it to desired doneness, move it to a cutting board to rest, and then whip up the sauce. The sauce takes no time at all, and if you have all of your ingredients next to the stove and ready, the whole dish can be finished in 10 minutes, depending upon your desired doneness of the steak. I made only one serving, and truthfully, I didn’t measure thing. It’s that easy.

I used a
top sirloin from Omaha Steaks. It was probably about 3/4"-1" thick, and I like my steak medium-rare. The entire cooking time was no longer than eight minutes after I had preheated the pan. The sauce took no longer than two minutes, so my meal, including warming time for the potato casserole that I had left over, and frozen peas, was on the table in 15 minutes. I still can’t believe it. For a less expensive meal, consider using this delicious sauce over chopped steak patties, and serve it to the entire family.

Steak with Peppercorn Sauce
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1-1/2 pounds boneless beef steak, 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick, your choice of cut (I used
Omaha Steaks’ top sirloin)
Fine sea salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup cognac or brandy
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon white or black peppercorns, cracked (I used
Melissa’s Rainbow Peppercorn Grinder)

About an hour before serving, remove the meat from the refrigerator and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt.

In a large, heavy pan, heat the oil over medium high heat until it is just beginning to smoke. Add the meat and cook without disturbing for three minutes until a golden crust forms. Flip and repeat on the other side. Flip again and then cook, flipping and basting with the juices every 20 to 30 seconds, until the meat is browned on the outside and cooked to your liking on the inside.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and cover with foil to allow to rest while you prepare the sauce.

Reduce the heat under the pan to medium. Pour in the cognac, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to loosen up the bits. Whisk in the butter and cook for one minute. Whisk in the cream and cracked peppercorns and stir until warmed through.

Cut the meat into servings, if needed, and divide among 4 to 6 plates. Spoon sauce over the meat.

As I mentioned earlier, Jim loved a good steak. Jim’s Steak Diane was one of his favorite recipes.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Busy Day Cashew Chicken

This is one of those recipes that makes use of prepackaged food. I am not at all averse to using such things now and again, and when I do, I use only the best, in this case, a breaded Chicken Fried Chicken patty from Omaha Steaks. If you prefer, you can just as easily use chicken tenders, chicken nuggets, or any other form of breaded chicken available at your local market.

What makes this so good is the sauce. My boys used to love it when I would make cashew chicken when they were little. Back then I went to a lot of trouble getting chicken breasts, cutting them into strips, marinating them, breading them, and then stir frying them to make them crispy. By the time the dinner was ready to be put on the table I was exhausted. Who has time for that? This makes it very easy. The sauce is a spicy take on a basic white sauce, and you can adjust the heat according to your tastes.

Use this recipe and dinner will be on the table in less than 30 minutes, and you’ll please everyone in the family. Serve it with a vegetable, and side of rice. Be sure to add a dollop of sauce on the rice. It is so good!
Busy Day Cashew Chicken

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon instant chicken soup base (I use
3 cups whole milk
3 scallions, sliced diagonally
1/2 cup cashews
Breaded chicken patties, strips, or nuggets to feed 4

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan. Add flour, and stir over medium heat for one minutes until well combined. Add cayenne pepper, chicken soup base, and milk, stirring constantly until thickened and smooth. Add more or less cayenne pepper depending upon your tastes. Meanwhile, prepare chicken according to package directions. When chicken is ready, ladle sauce over the top and sprinkle with scallions and cashews. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

If you like make-at-home Chinese food as much as I do, you will also enjoy this Chinese Walnut Chicken.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Iowa Corn Bread with Bee Butter

You can all breathe a sigh of relief, people; the ham recipes have come to an end. Whew! Are you as exhausted as I am? Boy, that was tough getting through.

Today I’m going to give you the recipe for the cornbread that you saw on Monday accompanying the
Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup. It’s a tasty, easy to assemble (with ingredients you no doubt already have on hand) recipe that I found in one of the books by Susan Branch. If you’ve never read one of her books, you must! They are filled with sweet and charming observations on her everyday life, beautifully illustrated, with tasty recipes interspersed throughout.

To my way of thinking there is no better cornbread than the Caribbean Corn Bread that I shared with you
here, and nothing will change my mind, but I really did like this one, if for nothing more than ease and available ingredients. What I found interesting about this recipe was the inclusion of spices and orange zest. While hardly a traditional cornbread, I did I love the idea of orange zest, so much so that I doubled up on it, so mine had a pleasant orange taste. I remember, years ago, having tea sandwiches made of ham and orange marmalade cream cheese that were delicious. So, I had an idea that orange zest in cornbread was going to be a nice complement to the ham and bean soup, and it was. Below is her recipe. Up the spices and zest according to your own taste, or leave as is. Word of warning, it must be served warm. It is not nearly as good when it has cooled off, and needs to be warm in order to melt that delicious accompaniment, Bee Butter.
Iowa Corn Bread with Bee Butter

1 extra large egg
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (I used more)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (I use
Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger

Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease and flour (I used Baker’s Joy) an 8” x 8” square pan; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk egg well; stir in the milk and zest, and set aside.

Melt butter. Sift together dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in milk mixture and butter, pour into prepared 8" pan.

Bake 20 to 22 minutes, or until a knife or wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serve hot with Bee Butter.

Bee Butter

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons honey

Whip together butter and honey until blended. Serve with corn bread, on biscuits, or your morning toast.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spicy Mustard Ham Salad

Today I am going to share a delicious recipe for ham salad. I know what you’re thinking, enough with the ham already! We get it! You bought too much ham. To which I would respond, well at least you’re not living it. My life has become a porcine nightmare. Seriously, I am beginning to oink. But, you can relax now; this is the last ham-related recipe that I’m going to share for a long, long time. You can trust me on that.

This is a wonderful recipe because it has so many uses. You can put it in a dish and serve it with crackers as a snack or pre-meal appetizer, you can enjoy it on a sandwich as I did here, you can make a lettuce wrap out of it (that is really delicious by the way), or use it as a dip with tortilla chips (or even Fritos, and I cannot tell you how yummy that is). At any rate, this is a good recipe to keep on hand, because there always seems to be a bit of ham left over no matter your good intentions, and this is a great way to make use of it.
Spicy Mustard Ham Salad

10 ounces ham
3 kosher dill pickle spears (I used Clausen)
1 tablespoon brown sugar, loosely packed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

Toss all ingredients into the food processor and pulse until it reaches desired consistency. If you want to thin it a bit, add a bit of pickle juice and pulse again.

 If you like your ham spread with a bit more kick, you might try Ham Spread Diablo. Zesty!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

​​​​Creamed Ham and Mushrooms on Toast

Can you believe that I am still eating ham? Wow! I had no idea how long that ham would last. At one point I considered burying it out in the backyard, but that would have gone against my grain, so I used up every last bit. This morning I decided to make a ham version of cream chipped beef on toast. As it turned out, it was excellent! So, here is the recipe for those of you whose hams are bigger than their stomachs.
​​​​Creamed Ham and Mushrooms on Toast

2 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup slivered ham
1 ½ tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups whole milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon curry powder, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley​
4 pieces toast

In a 9 - 10 inch sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat. Sauté mushrooms for 3 to 5 minutes, then add ham and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, adding more butter if necessary. Move ham and mushrooms to one side of the pan, add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and flour, stirring to combine. Cook and stir 1 to 2 additional minutes. Add milk in a slow stream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Stir in sour cream, pepper, curry powder, mustard, ​and parsley. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until heated through, about two minutes. Ladle mixture over toast. This serves two hearty appetites, or four smaller ones.

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