Thursday, 8 December 2011

Cream Cheese Vegetable Spread

As many of you know, I've been know to throw a party.  Or 2.  Or half a dozen in any given year ;-)  One type of party that I love to throw is a lady's tea.  People have alwoys loved my cucumber sandwiches, and asked for the recipe, but I always just throw it together at the last minute!  I made a batch today, and it turned out perfectly, so here it is in recipe form!

This is a great all purpose cream cheese dip/filling/spread.  Great with a veggie tray, crackers, cucumber sandwiches, etc.  For a dip, thin slightly with milk.

Cream Cheese Vegetable Spread

2 blocks philadelphia cream cheese, room temp
1 stick real butter, room temp
1/2 red bell pepper, minced finely (see notes in recipe)
1/2 cucumber, seeded and minced (see note)
2 green onions, halved lengthwise and minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon (or more) dried dill

optional - a few dashes of tabasco or worcestershire, for kick.  I never add these for cucumber sandwiches, maybe for use as veggie dip.

Basically you mix everything in a bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Makes about 3 cups.  For cucumber sandwiches, spread thinly on both pieces of bread, fill with a single layer of paper thin cucumber slices, remove the crusts and quarter the sandwiches.

Use English cucumbers if you can get them, which have tiny or non-existant seeds.  Otherwise, peel and quarter your cucumber lengthwise, then cut out the seedy center before mincing.

For the veggies, when I say minced, I don't mean "finely chopped".  I mean "minced until they begin to liquify".  If you have a mini food chopper, magic bullet, etc, this will be easy.  To do it by hand takes longer.  Chop each veggie until its very small, then gather it all up into a pile.  Beginning at one side of your pile, hold the knife in one hand, and place the other hand about 2" up from the tip.  Rock the knife back and forth quickly, while slowly progressing across your pile of veggies.  I usually scrape it all together and do it over and over until the pieces are super tiny, and they are standing in their own juices on the cutting board.  Pour it all into the bowl - including the juices.  Your mix will be slightly salmon-colored by the red bell pepper.  Speaking of which, smoked salmon in or on this dip would be heavenly.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chicken Salad

As I write, I'm eating the last leftovers of the best chicken salad I've ever made.  It had the perfect combination of crunch, chew, creaminess, sweet and savory.  It was SOOOO good, that I'm writing it down for myself so I won't forget how I did it.  I guess you can see it to.  I mostly combined 2 recipes that I found, which both seemed to be lacking in what the other provided.  Perfect combination!!

Chicken Salad

4 regular or 5 smallish chicken breasts
2 ribs celery, finely diced
3 green onions, split lengthwise and finely chopped
1/2C pecan halves, broken into pieces or roughly chopped
1/2C walnut halves broken into pieces or roughly chopped
1 small apple, diced (peel only if the skin is tough)
1C black seedless grapes, halved

1/2C mayonaisse
1/2C sour cream
1/2C loosely packed fresh basil, sliced into shreds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

First, cook the chicken.  I took my chicken breasts out of the freezer, plopped them onto a rimmed baking sheet and into a 350 oven.  About an hour into it, I had to drain the pan of water.  Cook until the internal temp is at least 160.  Chop into nice smallish pieces - mine were about 1/2".  Or you can choose to shred your chicken by pulling it apart with 2 forks.  Chunks are nice for eating with a fork, but shreds stay in a sandwich better.  Place chicken in a large mixing bowl.

While the chicken is cooking, toast your nuts.  You can spread them on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake at about 350 for 8-12 minutes, shaking the pan every few minutes or until lightly toasted.  Or, you can put them in a cast iron skillet on med/low heat and shake the pan every minute or so until toasted.  Cool and add to the chicken.

Chop the celery, green onion, apple and halve the grapes and add to the chicken.  In a small bowl or 2C glass measuring cup, mix together all the dressing ingredients.  You may want to add the salt last, a little at a time and taste as you go.  Adjust the seasonings now, but remember the flavors of the other ingredients will make a big difference.

Toss everything together in the big bowl and enjoy!!  You can start with only part of the dressing if it looks like too much.  Makes around 7-8C.