Category Archives: condiments

Naughty and Nice Cracker Spread

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It’s that time of year.  That time where everyone is put into one of two categories.  You know the ones – Naughty or Nice.  Well, what if you’re a little bit of both?  What if your halo is held a little crooked because of those cute little horns coming out of your forehead?  Is there a gray area?  No, not one of the 50 shades…

Well, Santa, I’ve been NICE this year.  I’ve done some good deeds, thought some good thoughts, put others before myself.  But I’ve also been NAUGHTY.  I snuck Halloween candy and ate it without telling my hubby I bought any.  And I didn’t share.  I let my babies cry on the floor when they didn’t want to do tummy time and I made them do it for a few minutes more anyway.  And I ate my dinner before feeding the dog.  Because I was hungry.

So, this cracker spread is a little like me.  There’s the nice side that is all creamy and sweet.  Then there’s the naughty side that you THINK is creamy and sweet– until it punches you in the taste buds.  Don’t be surprised if you have every intention of sharing, then end up in the closet with a few Ritz crackers and a spoon.  Go ahead.  Double dip.  Be naughty.  I won’t tell…

Naughty and Nice Cracker Spread

  • 2 (8 oz.) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup raspberry preserves (I used seedless)
  • 1 cup jalapeno pepper jelly (I used Tabasco brand)
  • Crackers (Ritz are NICE)
  1. Plop cream cheese blocks onto a plate- I used one that was about 15″ in diameter.  Use a rubber spatula to smush and squish the cream cheese into a flat layer.  Smooth out the top.
  2. Pour raspberry preserves on one half, and pepper jelly on the other half.
  3. Serve with crackers.

By the way, the spicy NAUGHTY side is fantastic on a bagel in the morning.  Especially with bacon.  😉

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Veggie Cream Cheese

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One of my very favorite things is going to a bagel shop and ordering a sesame bagel with veggie cream cheese.  The veggie cream cheese tastes different from the stuff in the dairy section at the store.  It tastes BETTER!

I didn’t feel like driving to the nearest bagel shop- its over half an hour away. So, I decided to make my own.  It was pretty easy!  Plus, it can be customized to fit your tastes.  Don’t like red bell peppers?  Leave them out!  Addicted to kale?  Throw some in there!  Whatever floats your boat!

And when you’re done making this cream cheese, you can slather it on toast, toasted bagels, crackers, celery sticks, etc.  YUM!  And the breakfast BLTs made with this stuff are AWESOME!  I use this cream cheese instead of mayo, then pile the bacon, lettuce and tomato on my toasted bagel.

I couldn’t find sesame bagels at the store that would work with my ‘lower carbs’ diet, but I did find the Thomas Bagel Thins in the Everything flavor.  They’re pretty good- especially with freshly made veggie cream cheese.

Seriously- go make some!!

Veggie Cream Cheese

  • 8 oz. cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced scallion
  • 2 Tbsp minced celery
  • 3 Tbsp minced carrots
  • 2 Tbsp minced red bell pepper
  1. Bring cream cheese to room temp.  Whip slightly in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Add garlic and veggies.  Stir well.
  3. Refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors ‘meld’ before using.
  4. Keep in fridge- should last a week or two in a tight lidded container.  Enjoy!!

Lemon Garlic Herb Vinaigrette

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This tangy dressing reminds me of Spring.  I know Spring is right around the corner, but all of this fog we’ve been having lately has been a little discouraging.  I can’t wait to see the daffodills begin to grow.  Heck, I’d settle for a full day of sunshine!

Until then, lets just make a little sunshine in a bottle.  Something tangy, lemony, and herby.  Or is that Herbie?  No, wait.  Herbie is a car…

This dressing will keep a couple of weeks in the fridge.  I like to bring it to room temp before tossing with greens to make sure the olive oil is no longer solid.  And this dressing with a bit of blue cheese is heavenly– almost like Buddy’s salad dressing.  Almost…

Here’s hoping Spring comes soon!  😀

Lemon Garlic Herb Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  1. Place olive oil and garlic in a microwave-safe container.  Microwave on high about 30 seconds.  This will help to mellow the garlic a bit so it’s not as harsh as raw garlic.  Let cool.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.  Drizzle in the olive oil/garlic mixture while whisking constantly.  Continue whisking until dressing thickens slightly and is well combined.
  3. Store leftover dressing in a jar with a tight lid in the fridge.

 

Garlic Sourdough Croutons

garliccroutonsSometimes, I get to travel for work.  And sometimes, I get to spend a couple hours in the San Francisco airport.  They have really good sourdough bread there.  It ALMOST makes up for the flights ALWAYS being delayed– especially on foggy mornings.  ALMOST…

I usually pick up at least a few loaves.  One to take to work, one to give a neighbor, and one for us to eat.  We made grilled cheese sandwiches a few times (heavenly with a few thin slices of garden tomatoes), but we still had half a loaf left.  And it was beginning to get stale.  What’s my go-to thing for good stale-ish bread?  CROUTONS!!

Croutons are SO EASY and SO GOOD!  I add them to salads, on top of soups, or just eat them as a snack sometimes.  Hey- don’t judge!  I just tell myself they’re better than potato chips.  And if they’re not, we’ll just pretend they are. 😉

What do you like to do with stale-ish bread?

Garlic Sourdough Croutons

  • 2-3 Tbsp oil (I used light olive oil)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 loaf (8 oz.) good sourdough bread, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a cookie sheet with foil.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat oil and garlic.  Continue heating, turning garlic often, until garlic is toasted and golden brown (NOT black).  Remove garlic from oil and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, combine bread cubes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.
  4. Spread out the seasoned cubes on the foil-lined cookie sheet in a single layer.  Bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes or until the top is golden.
  5. Turn or stir the croutons, then place back in the oven for about another 5 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely. Store on the counter in an airtight container.

Strawberry Syrup

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I’m so glad its Spring!  Aren’t you?  We had a few days of really beautiful weather, then the cool wind came sweeping in again.  It’s ok.  I know how you are, March.  You like to tease us.  “Come in like a lion and out like a lamb”, as my grandpa used to say.  Well, it’s almost time for the lamb.  Whatever that means!

I had some strawberries in my fridge that were a little past their prime.  Nothing really wrong with them, just time to get them used up.  So I made some syrup.  The process is very similar to making jam, but I puree mine to get rid of most of the lumps.  The resulting syrup is great on pancakes, in Italian Sodas, and wonderful in a Strawberry Vinaigrette dressing.  Great.  Now I have to go buy more strawberries!

Strawberry Syrup

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  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, cored and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. Place ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 7 minutes.  The strawberries should break down and become thick.
  2. Use an immersion blender or transfer hot strawberries to a blender or food processor and puree until almost smooth.  Store refrigerated.
  • What to do with it:
  1. Serve over ice cream or pancakes.
  2. Serve in an Italian Soda (2 Tbsp strawberry syrup, 1 cup club soda, 2 Tbsp half and half (optional), 2 Tbsp whipped cream (optional).
  3. Strawberry Vinaigrette for one salad: 1 Tbsp strawberry syrup, 1 Tbsp raspberry vinegar or apple cider vinegar, 1-1/2 tsp olive oil– serve over spinach leaves with sliced strawberries, chopped apples, and toasted pecans.

Brown Hamburger Gravy

This post could also be called, “How NOT to bake a potato”.  A good friend told me about ‘baking’ potatoes in a crock pot. I was skeptical.  She said all you do is scrub them and stick them in the crock pot.  When you get home, you have baked potatoes.  But the bottom or sides that touch the crock tend to burn.

Before I get up on my little potato-box, let me explain something.  I grew up in a tiny little town called Shelley, Idaho.  Shelley is a potato town.  We have a ‘Spud Harvest’ celebration every September (and the kids get out of school for two weeks for harvest).  Shelley is so into potatoes, the high school mascot is a potato.  Yep.  Shelley Russets.  While all the other schools got to make cool posters that said things like, “Mash those Russets!  Make those Russets Fry!”, our posters said things like, “Russets have a-peel!” and “We’ve got our ‘eyes’ on you!”  Lame?  Maybe.  But we all have those kinds of growing up stories.  The point is that Potatoes are SERIOUS BUSINESS in Shelley, ID.  All those spuds they give out on Spud Day are REAL baked potatoes, with a tender flaky inside and crispy salty skin.

You can’t be a proper Shelly Russet without knowing how a baked potato should taste.  Folks, ‘baked potatoes’ in the crock pot are not it.  They have a slimy or waxy interior texture and soft chewy skin.  Not good spuds.  Sure, you can pile on the cheese, chili, sour cream, etc. to cover up the texture, but it just isn’t right!!

Ok.  Potato rant over.  Moving on…

Hamburger gravy is comforting stuff.  My Mom would make it for dinner once in a while and we’d have it over mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, noodles or toast.  It’s pretty versatile and really easy to pull together for a quick dinner.  The leftovers are great, too!

What comfort food do you start to crave at the beginning of fall?

Brown Hamburger Gravy

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  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp Better than Bouillon
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra milk if you like a thinner gravy
  1. Brown beef in a skillet over medium heat, breaking it up well.  When browning is complete, make sure there is about 2 Tbsp fat left at the bottom of the skillet.  If not, add the olive oil.  Fat is needed to combine with the flour to make the roux to thicken the gravy. 😉
  2. Sprinkle the flour over the beef and stir well.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, to get rid of the raw flour taste.  Plop in the Better than Bouillon and stir well to coat the beef.
  3. Add the milk and use a rubber spatula to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the skillet.  Those are some tasty bits!  Continue to cook, stirring often, until bubbly and thick.  This should take 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. If needed, add a bit more milk to thin it out slightly.  Spoon over mashed potatoes, rice, toast, baked potatoes, or pasta.

HINT: If you add some mushrooms to the cooking beef and some sour cream at the end, you’ve got Stroganoff!  Serve over soft egg noodles. 🙂

Fridge Pickles

I am so lucky!  Really, I am!  I have friends.  Friends with gardens.  Friends that like to share.  Friends that leave BAGS of cucumbers and tomatoes on my desk.  🙂

Know what my favorite way to have a cucumber is?  Pickled.  I love dill pickles!  I like a sweet pickle every once in a while (but only the ones that my Grandma makes).  Seriously, I eat a pickle every day.  We have at least 3 different kinds in the fridge at all times.

So, we’ve established my love for garlicky salty vinegary cucumbers.  But you know what?  I’m lazy.  I don’t want to mess with canning.  I don’t mind cutting things up and stuffing them into jars.  It’s the boiling of the jars that gets to me. And the texture never turns out quite right (unless you add a little calcium chloride).  What’s the answer?

Fridge pickles!  These things are AWESOME!  Use clean, sanitized jars, fill them with seasonings and cucumbers, then fill ’em up with a salty vinegar brine.  Wait a few days, and rip into them.  YUM!  These will keep in the fridge for a long time.  Months.  Unless you’re a pickle lover like me.  Then it might be weeks. 😉

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Fridge Pickles

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  • Cucumbers, scrubbed well and cut into spears (I like to cut the stem end off as it tends to be bitter), enough to fill quart jar
  • Garlic (1 large clove per jar, cut in half)
  • Mustard seeds or pickling spice (1/2 tsp per quart jar)
  • 1 large sprig fresh dill
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup white vinegar (I use Heinz)
  • 2 Tbsp sea salt
  1. Place mustard seeds or pickling spice into the bottom of a clean quart-size jar.  Add the garlic, dill, and red pepper flakes.
  2. Pack cucumber spears in the jar as tightly as possible.
  3. In a medium pot over high heat, bring water, vinegar, and salt to a boil.
  4. Quickly pour the vinegar solution into the jar, filling to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Be sure the cucumbers are completely submerged.
  5. Screw the top on.  Let sit out for about 30 minutes to cool a bit.
  6. Stash your jar in the back of the fridge for at least 5 days.  Then crack ’em open and crunch away!

This recipe is for one quart size jar of pickles.  It can easily be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc.  depending on how many cucumbers you have on hand.  Just make sure you have enough room in your fridge!

These pickles have PUCKER POWER!!

What do you like to do with extra cucumbers?