Saturday, December 20, 2014

Swiss-Almond Cheese Spread with Caramelized Onions

Clearly, I've been on a cheese spread kick.  Not only did I do the Cheddar Cheese Spread recipe, and Justin did Ina Garten's smoked salmon spread, but I also made a cream cheese, green olive and pecan spread that I remembered my mom stuffing celery sticks with for holidays when I was a kid.  After talking to my grandmother the other day,  come to find out, my great-great grandmother used to make the pecan-olive spread stuffed in celery.  100 year old family recipe!  Pretty cool to me!  One of my older brothers and I both had the urge to make it this year (without having talked about it) - must be feeling reminiscent.  I hope at least one of my nieces or nephews end up liking it too to carry on the tradition.

Anyway, this all actually started with me having the desire to do a Swiss-almond cheese spread.  I just hadn't gotten to it yet.  I was trying to think of something to do to it so it wasn't just Swiss-almond spread and I thought caramelized onions would be great with it... and they were.  I think this might be our favourite dip/spread yet.  The Swiss cheese is so mellow and mild... but the almonds give it a good crunch and the onions with it almost remind me of French-onion soup.  Really delicious!

I blame the holidays for my cream cheese extravaganza.  And I've definitely been in a holiday mood - I am guilty of being one of those dreaded people who loves Christmas music.  Justin suggested a song from Bad Religion's Christmas Songs, but I couldn't decide on one.  And Christmas only comes one a year, so I thought I'd share a link to the whole album.  -jen

Time:  25-30 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 2 cups
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, 1/4" slices (on the thin side)
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8oz finely shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika 
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2-3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
In a large skillet over a low heat, melt butter and add olive oil.  Add sliced onions and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Onions will be soft, dark and sweet.  Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a food processor (or with a fork), combine cream cheese, shredded Swiss, mayonnaise, paprika, a pinch of salt and a few cranks of fresh ground pepper; blend until creamy and smooth.  Add caramelized onions and pulse (or fork) until combined.  Fold in chopped almonds by hand.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve chilled or slightly softened to room temp.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cheddar Cheese Spread

I haven't had as much time this year to make anything amazing or grand for the holidays like I'd hoped.  But I made this for no reason at all this morning (okay, I made it because I've been in a cream cheese mood) and I thought, "This would be so fantastic for any holiday party and so easy!"  So in a way, this recipe is perfect for the holidays which makes it both amazing and grand!

I'm a huge fan of crackers and cheese spread.  Grew up with the store-bought kind, you know the ones... port wine, cheddar & bacon, Swiss almond.  I actually don't see a lot of them in the stores anymore.  Maybe it's a passé appetizer... or maybe we just live behind the Redwood Curtain and don't get a lot of selection at our stores.  I try not to eat a lot of crackers anymore, but we have some crackers left over from a company Christmas party (where Justin made his own take on Ina Garten's Smoked Salmon dip, which was excellent, made with some fresh-caught, home-smoked salmon a friend gave us!) and we also have a ton of cheese in our house because my dad always sends a box of cheese and sausage from Wisconsin for Christmas - we look forward to it every year!  So I was itching for a cheese spread and decided to make one.  I don't think I will ever buy another store-bought cheese spread again!  This was just so easy to make and the different ideas for what I could put in them seems endless!  Beer, wine, garlic, onion, horseradish, bacon, herbs, roasted peppers.... you could put anything you liked into it!  Whatever cheese you want to use (I'd really like to make a Swiss-almond one!)  Like I said, I just used what I had at home and it came out fantastic!

I just heard this song for the first time the other day and I think it might be one of my new favourite Christmas songs.  I've always loved Cyndi Lauper.  Here she is with The Hives doing A Christmas Duel.  -jen

Time:  10 minutes
Difficulty:  So ridiculously easy
Makes:  about 2 cups
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8oz medium or sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (optional, but helps it spread better)
  • 2 teaspoons dried chives (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
In a food processor (or with a fork), combine all ingredients and mix until well blended.  Serve immediately or chill for later.  Really, you can choose whatever cheese you want and put whatever seasonings you like in it, that's just what I chose.  Be creative!