Spicy Southern Pimento Cheese Spread with Buttery Toasts

Spicy Southern Pimento Cheese Spread with Buttery Toastspimento

I remember eating pimento cheese on white bread sandwiches when I visited my grandmother’s house as a kid.  I liked them, but it wasn’t something I remember eating all the time.  And since I had lived in the south my whole life, I didn’t realize it was a traditionally southern food.  Fast forward 25 years later, when I haven’t given pimento cheese a second thought in years.  I am watching one of my favorite celebrity cooking shows, and she makes pimento cheese spread.  I guess I never realized it was something people actually made.  I’d always assumed it was just something you bought.  But it looked so easy, I had to put it on my to-make list.  Our friends, Glen and Merle, came over with their kids last night for a barbecue, and I got to try it out.  My version is a little spicy.  This is also a great make-ahead dish.

When it comes to cheese, I will always use freshly grated in my recipes.  I buy several kinds of cheese in block bulk on a regular basis:  cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, and feta.  By having these 4 on hand at all times, I can have cheese for any type of meal I feel like making, whether it’s taco night, omelets, or chicken parmesan.  When you buy in bulk and grate it at home, not only do you save money, but you also get better tasting cheese, and it doesn’t have the additives that are in pre-grated cheese.

 

Serves 8 Appetizer Servings

Total Time:  30 minutes

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

Crusty bread (I used one sprouted wheat loaf and one sourdough loaf, but a baguette would work, too)

Butter

2/3 cup light mayonnaise

2/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

2 1/3 cup freshly grated yellow cheddar cheese

4 ounce jar of diced pimentos

1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (more or less according to your tastes)

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.  Slice the bread into slices about ½ inch thick.  Melt the butter, and brush both sides of each slice with the melted butter.  Arrange bread on a baking sheet, and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Combine mayonnaise, cheeses, pimentos with the juice, and cayenne pepper, Mix all until thoroughly combined.
  3. Serve when the toasts have cooled and the spread is chilled.

 

 

 

 


Seared Tuna Over A Powerhouse Kale Salad

Seared Tuna Over A Powerhouse Kale Salad

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This was an impulse dinner.  I stopped at my favorite seafood shop hoping for a nice piece of salmon.  They were all out of salmon, so I settled for my second favorite fish, tuna.  The first time I
ever had sesame crusted tuna was 12 years ago when I waitressed at an Ernest-Hemingway-themed restaurant.  I don’t know exactly how sesame tuna goes with Hemingway, but it tasted really good. 

Difficulty Level: Easy

Serves 1

Total time 20-25 minutes

 

Ingredients

Fresh kale

2 Button mushrooms

1 Scallion

Jalapenos (or bell pepper if you don’t like spicy)

1 radish

¼ of an English cucumber

Sesame ginger salad dressing

One 6-10 oz piece of sushi grade tuna.  It doesn’t matter the size, but it must be fresh

Cooking spray (I like coconut oil spray because it makes me feel healthier)

Black sesame seeds

 

  1. Start with the salad because the fish only takes a minute.  Plus I think the salad tastes better if it sets for a few minutes first.  Chop the kale into small pieces and add to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Slice the vegetables and add to the salad. Add the salad dressing.
  3. This is how I always mix my salads: Use tongs.  Toss gently, folding it until it is all incorporated.  I never pour my dressing over the salad in the serving dish.  Sure, you dirty one more bowl, but it tastes much better.
  4. Transfer your salad to the serving bowl and stick it in the fridge.
  5. Spray the fish with cooking spray, and dump lots of sesame seeds on top, coating it thoroughly. Flip it over and repeat.
  6. While the fish comes to room temp, heat your skillet to medium-high. Once it’s hot, add the fish and cook for about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a cutting board and slice against the grain.
  7. Top your salad and enjoy.

 

 


Fancy Crostini with Nectarine, Basil, and Brie

Fancy Crostini with Nectarine, Basil, and Brie

crostini

I made this recently when one of my besties, June, came over to catch up.  She brought the wine, and I thought these would go perfectly.  Not too heavy, nice and summery, pretty, and girly.  By the way, they’re really easy to make.

 

Serves 4 appetizer servings

Difficulty Level:  easy

Total time:  30 minutes or less

 

Ingredients

1 baguette loaf

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 nectarines (you could also use peaches)

1 8 ounce wedge of Brie

Fistful of torn basil

 

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350.  Slice baguette on an angle, about 2/3 inch thick.
  2. Brush olive oil on both sides of baguette slices and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes, just until they crisp up.  Remove from oven.  Turn the oven up to 425.
  3. Slice brie into moderately thin piece and put a slice on each crostini (you’ve turned your baguette into crostini).
  4. Slice nectarines thinly and place 1 or 2 on each bagette slice.
  5. Season each crostini with salt and pepper.
  6. Return the crostini to the oven. Bake for just a few minutes until the cheese starts to melt.  Meanwhile, chiffonade the basil:  stack your leaves, roll them into a cigar, then slice thinly.
  7. Remove from oven.
  8. Finally sprinkle the basil onto the crostini and serve immediately.

Chicken Artichoke Casserole with Creamy Chardonnay Sauce

Chicken Artichoke Casserole  with Creamy Chardonnay Saucechicken artichoke casserole

The recipe I found for this suggested making it in the spring, but I don’t really go by that.  Since the artichokes are frozen, it doesn’t really matter.  I love everything about artichokes.  I first bought whole ones this year, and that helped me appreciate the work that goes into finding the little jewel in the center of that big thistle.  The flavor of artichokes really is unparalleled.  They’re buttery, verdant, creamy.  They’re definitely what I’d call an A-list vegetable.  I cringed a little when I saw that one box of the frozen hearts goes for $4.  I’m very thrifty in the kitchen usually, but I do like to splurge sometimes.  And I also remembered the work it takes to reach the heart of the artichoke.  If you’ve never bought whole, fresh artichokes, I’d recommend it.  It’s a lot of work, but if you love artichokes like I do, you’ll gain new appreciation.  There’s the trimming, the cutting, the soaking, the blanching, the seasoning, the grilling, the peeling.  But then you get to the center, and you forget about all of that.  I’m sorry for the tangent.  But artichokes are one of those gems of the food world, and I revere them.

Serves 8-10

Difficulty level: easy

Total time 2 hours

 

For the chicken:

 

4 8-10 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts

Olive oil spray

Salt and pepper

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray
  3. Place chicken breasts on pan, spray with nonstick spray, and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  4. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cover pan with tinfoil until chicken has reached room temperature.
  5. Dice chicken into chucks, roughly the same size as a quartered artichoke.
  6. Set chicken aside.

 

 

For the Sauce:

 

½ medium onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup butter

½ cup flour

½ bottle of white wine

2 cups chicken broth

Pinch each of dried thyme, sage, celery seed

1 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened

½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

 

  1. Sautee the onion and garlic in butter over medium heat until transluscent.
  2. Add the flour and whisk constantly until a paste has formed.
  3. Add the white wine and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and add the chicken broth and dried herbs.
  4. Add the cream cheese and parmesan cheese and cook over medium low for ten minutes, whisking on and off the incorporate.

 

 

For the Casserole:

 

2 9 oz boxes of frozen quartered artichokes, brought to room temperature

6 cups of cooked farro (I used Simply Balanced from Target—it’s pre-cooked, 3 packages)

One recipe Diced Baked Chicken

Creamy Chardonnay Sauce

A handful of torn fresh basil

1 Cup freshly grated Parmesan

1 cup sliced raw almonds

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the artichokes, farro, chicken, sauce, and basil until combined.
  3. Spread evenly into casserole dish. This recipe actually fits in one large, then one small casserole dish.  I make a lot because we have a lot of people to feed!
  4. Sprinkled parmesan evenly over casserole. Sprinkle almonds on top.
  5. Cover tightly with foil, and bake for 1 hour.
  6. Uncover, turn the oven up to 375, and bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Take it out the oven and let it set for 20 minutes before eating.

(recipe from Spicy Southern Kitchen)


Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad (makes about 8 servings)

I have actually been making this for about 5 years.  Once I realized that plain Greek yogurt tastes as good, if not better, than mayo, I have never gone back.  

Chicken Salad Ingredients

Chicken Salad Ingredients

2 pounds basic baked chicken (recipe here)

about 2 cups diced celery

1 bunch fresh basil, hand-torn

toasted, sliced almonds dried cranberries (Craisins Reduced Sugar)

fat free plain Greek yogurt (I like Oikos 0%)

salt and pepper

**Note:  I am so sorry, but I don’t really measure stuff very well.  I’m estimating all of these things.  With everything but the chicken, add gradually and stop when you think it looks good.

1.  Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Add the diced celery, basil, almonds, and cranberries.

2.  Add Greek yogurt and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper.

Skinny Chicken Salad

Skinny Chicken Salad

This will keep for about one week.  I usually eat it alone.  But my kids like it in a pita pocket.  I hope you enjoy.