Sweet & Savory Cheese Ball

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In the last installation of What We Ate At Amy’s Graduation Party, I give you this interesting little cheese ball. I know cheese balls are kind of clichéd, standard party food, but that doesn’t mean they’re not delicious. I got trapped by this one (as usual) and stood there munching on it for longer than I should probably admit. I found this dish a little different and interesting because it is equally sweet and savory. As you’re tasting it, you notice the sweet first, then realize you’re also tasting a strong garlicky flavor. But it doesn’t clash in your mouth – it works perfectly!

I think this was the only dish at the party that wasn’t a tried & true family recipe. Mom had it at another party and asked for the recipe from her friend. She gave her a copy of a printed out recipe that’s called Mill Mountain Cheese Spread. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where that name came from or with whom the recipe originated. If you try to look up “mill mountain cheese spread” in quotations, Google tells you that there are ‘No results found.’ (And here I thought Google was invincible.) There is a place in Roanoke, Virginia called Mill Mountain – I’m guessing the recipe maybe came from some place near there? What I did find though via the nearly-invincible Google though, is a recipe with the exact same ingredients. The Taste of Home website has a recipe entitled French Quarter Cheese Spread, that they published in November/December issue of Simple & Delicious magazine. So we’ll give them credit, so as to give someone credit!

Sweet & Savory Cheese Ball

Ingredients: 
  • 8oz cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced finely
  • 1 tbsp granulated onion
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp brown mustard
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Instructions: 
  1. Let cream cheese sit out until it is soft.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese with the garlic and onion.
  3. Once mixed together well, form into a ball with your hands. Place the cheese ball onto the dish you’re going to serve it on, which needs to have raised edges.
  4. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat on the stove.
  6. Once butter has melted, stir a few times to ensure the ingredients are combined. Then spoon over top of the cream cheese ball.
  7. Return dish to the refrigerator until just before time to serve.
  8. You can set this out ~15-20 minutes before your guests are arriving, so it returns to room temperature.
  9. Serve with crackers.

Hamburger Helper, Minus the Box

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I may have mentioned it once or twice, but I have an embarrassing love of most things that come in a box, especially with powdered cheese. Kraft mac & cheese? Clearly. Those Knorr rice or noodle sides in a bag? So good and only $1! Hamburger Helper? Be still my heart 🖤🖤🖤 Are any of these things actually good or good for me? No and no, but my taste buds are confused. Someone mentioned Hamburger Helper the other day, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. (Don’t judge me!)

I knew the chance of convincing Selim that Hamburger Helper was a decent meal choice was slim to none, so I went for a slightly less processed version. Maybe not exactly low calorie or low fat, but hey – I added vegetables and cut out the processed/powdered cheese. Wins all the way around. And it’s delicious! Take that dinner in a box! I guess I should also mentioned that this is based on Cheeseburger Macaroni – which to me is THE Hamburger Helper, but that might not be true for everyone.

I looked to Pinterest for a little guidance in getting started with this recipe. I checked out these lovely blogs, but didn’t follow one in particular – onetwo, & three.

HH

Hamburger Helper, Minus the Box

(Inspired by a few different blogs – see above)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 of a large onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups dry macaroni
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
Instructions: 
  1. In a large pan with tall edges, heat the oil.
  2. Over medium heat, cook the onions and the carrots for just 2-3 minutes. Top the onions with a few turns of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and add the beef and worchestershire sauce to the pan. Break up the beef with your cooking spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef has browned.
  4. If you have any excess grease, drain it off before adding the next ingredients.
  5. Now add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cheese. Stir together.
  6. Bring liquid to a boil. Then turn the heat back down to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer for ~10 minutes. Stir once or twice.
  7. Remove lid. Stir in the cheese. Once it’s well-combined, serve!
Makes ~8 servings.

Savory Casserole Bread

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Ally: What is casserole bread? Honestly, I had no idea when I was first looking at this recipe. Not joking, I literally googled, “what is casserole bread.” Basically, as best I can tell, it just means that you don’t knead it or let it rise so much, and therefore, it’s a much quicker and easier type of bread to make. True? Anyone know? I can definitely attest that it was the easiest and fastest loaf of bread I’ve ever made.

Selim: When I saw the casserole dish I immediately thought, “oh great casserole…”  When I think of casseroles I think of condensed soup, canned vegetables, sodium, and a burnt tongue (I always underestimate how long to let it cool before eating it).  As always, I was happy to be wrong when I saw this massive ball of dough heaping over the top.  The funny thing is, the savory smells of the ingredients started filling our place well before the whole thing was put in the oven.  The yeast starts working really quickly when warmed up and immediately started raising the dough – yay chemistry!  This bread would go well with any poultry dish (chicken, turkey, duck) or Thanksgiving dinner if you can get people to try something different instead of bland rolls.

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Savory Casserole Bread

Adapted from a Southern Living Cookbook – American’s Best Home Cooking
Ingredients: 
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp granulated onion
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 4 1/2 tsp active yeast (or 2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 (+ a little more) cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • ~2 cups warm water
Instructions: 
  1. Place all ingredients except for the water into the bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. Turn the mixer on low, with a dough hook attached.
  3. Slowly add the water as the mixer is going. You may not use all or may need slightly more. You want the dough to come together into a slightly sticky ball.
  4. Place the dough into a 2 1/2 quart baking dish (buttered, oiled, or sprayed with cooking spray). Push it down to fill fully.
  5. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  6. After rising, sprinkle a little bit of additional cheese on top.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes.
  8. After baking, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the dish for 10 minutes.
  9. Then remove from the baking baking dish to a wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes.
Makes a LARGE loaf!

Spinach & Feta Gözleme

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What’s the first thing people think of when they think of Turkish food? Kofte is the first thing for most people, but there’s so much more! Don’t worry, we’re going to keep cooking our way through them and sharing with you here. Gözleme is one of the many great Turkish street foods. (Lahmacun is another that if you haven’t tried from our blog, you should soon!) So good in fact that it has spread from Turkey to the rest of the world. In Australia, there’s a fast food place, called Gözleme King, devoted to making different types of gözleme. This spinach and cheese preparation is a fairly traditional one, but gözleme can contain pretty much anything! In the future we’re definitely going to throw in some sucuk (Turkish sausage). But as is, this dish is amazing. The dough is soft, light, and just a bit crispy on the edges. And it essentially goes without saying that the warm feta brings it all of the flavors together perfectly.

*So speaking of feta… Let’s talk about feta. I know so many people who loooove feta. I’m one of them, obviously. We could form a fan club if y’all want? But here’s the thing, a lot of people I know have only ever had the pre-crumbled, standard grocery store feta. I used to be one of them. As with many other things, when I started dating Selim, my narrowly bounded world of feta expanded. If you think feta only exists in its pre-crumbled form and you love it anyway, please go out and find some block feta in brine. Your world will be changed forever, I promise. (Mine was!) The flavor and texture are so much better – you’ll never go back. Sadly, not all of your standard grocery stores will have feta like this. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods usually do, but if yours doesn’t, try an international grocery store, a halal market, or a Middle Eastern specialty shop. While you’re there, try all the different types of feta and Middle Eastern cheeses, your cheese-world will be forever changed.

We have two go-tos when it comes to making Turkish recipes. The first is Ozcan Ozan’s cookbook that I’ve referenced on here before. But the second is a blog called Ozlem’s Turkish Table. Tonight’s recipe is adapted from there. It is a wonderful resource for all things Turkish food!

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Spinach & Feta Gözleme

(Adapted from Ozlem’s Turkish Table)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil + more for brushing
  • 1 tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water + more
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups (loosely packed) spinach, roughly chopped
  • 6oz feta*
Instructions: 
  1. Begin by making the dough. Take 1/2 cup of warm water and stir in the pinch of salt and yeast. Allow to sit for a few minutes until it begins to bubble.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast mixture, yogurt, and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add additional water by the tablespoon. (I used an additional 2-3 tbsp).  Using your hands, form into a big ball of dough.
  3. Once you have a ball of dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for several minutes.
  4. Divide into 4 similarly sized smaller balls. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for ~30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Pour 2 tsp of olive oil into a pan over medium heat.
  6. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and onions. Sprinkle with the spices and stir.
  7. Cook just for 4-5 minutes until soft and fragrant, but not starting to brown.
  8. Add the spinach and a couple drops of water to the pan and cover. Leave covered for just a minute or two, until the spinach has wilted just a bit.
  9. Remove the lid and stir together well. Allow to cook for another minute or two with the lid off to get rid of any excess moisture.
  10. Remove to a bowl on the side. Mix in the feta.
  11. Now roll out the dough balls into large, thin, rectangular segments.
  12. Divide the mixture from the pan among the dough segments, placing in the middle of each piece of dough. Make sure to leave plenty of room around the edges for folding.
  13. Fold the dough around the mixture as pictured. (You want to end up with a little rectangular envelope.) Brush the edges with olive oil to help them stay together.
  14. Now, bring a large pan, preferably a griddle one, up to medium heat. [Don’t start until the pan is hot!]
  15. Brush both sides of each gözleme with more olive oil. Once pan is hot, place them on the pan. (You can do one at a time or if you’re more confidant in your skills than I am, as many as will comfortably fit in your pan.) Cover the pan and do not touch for three full minutes. At this time, flip to the other side, re-cover, and again, do not touch for three minutes!
  16. After this point, you may flip back and forth a few times, cooking another 4-5 minutes until dough is cooking and the outside crisped to your liking.

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Sauce

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Happy middle of March! Who cares about mid-March you say?? I do! Mid-March means the NCAA basketball tournament. I love the Madness! The brackets, the buzzer-beaters, the underdogs, the team spirit, the heart and soul… I love it all!

This weekend has been a little bit of a roller-coaster for me though. I’ve enjoyed my time glued to the couch, flipping between games. But then my hometown VCU Rams fizzled out in the first round. My Virginia Cavaliers and South Carolina Gamecocks each had strong second halves to win their respective first round games. We went to Greenville, SC to hang out with my brothers and immerse ourselves in the tournament festivities downtown, which was really fun! But then… UVA lost in the second round in pretty much the most soul-crushing fashion imaginable. So that was definitely a down moment. And by down I mean, I may or may not have shed a tear or two.
I pretended it didn’t happen today and watched the games all afternoon. This pasta dish may not be your most traditional game-day food, but we enjoyed it none the less.

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Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Sauce

Ingredients: 
  • 8oz pasta
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6oz herbed goat cheese
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 turns of fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rub 1 tsp of olive oil over the peppers and place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast peppers for 30 minutes. They will begin to blister.
  3. Allow the peppers to cool slightly. Remove the seeds and stems.
  4. Place the peppers and the milk into a food processor. Give it a few spins until you have a nice puree.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the other 1 tsp of olive oil over medium heat.
  6. Mince the garlic and brown in the olive oil for ~3-4 minutes.
  7. Turn heat down to low and add the red pepper puree, goat cheese, and all of the remaining spices to the pan.
  8. Cook over low heat for ~15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until ingredients are well-combined and heated through.
  9. As the sauce is coming together, prepare your pasta.
  10. Serve sauce overtop of pasta and enjoy!
Makes 2 large servings or 4 smaller side dish servings.

Scalloped Potatoes

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I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve never made scalloped potatoes before today. Maybe that’s not that weird for most, but growing up my mother made them at least a few a month, and they’re one of my favorite side dishes. I wish I had my mother’s recipe, but she didn’t include that one in the family recipe book. (Also, apparently I’m too lazy to call her…) So, in what is generally an aberration for me, the girl who loves following recipes, I sort of winged it. Therefore, if there is a “correct” way to make scalloped potatoes, this probably isn’t it.

The potatoes turned out just how I like them thought luckily! Creamy, with a little bit of sauce. Cheesy and flavorful! And an easy complement to most main courses. What more could you ask for?

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Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, halved & sliced
  • 3/4 cup stock (chicken, turkey, vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp flour
  • 3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 6oz Pecorino cheese, shredded
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium-sized pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat.
  3. Once the butter has melted, add the the onions. Stir to coat in the butter. Top with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper.
  4. Saute the onions over the medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until they are just beginning to brown, roughly 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine milk, stock, paprika, salt, and remaining 1 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a very low simmer.
  6. Whisk the flour into the liquid mixture. Add the flour very slowly and whisk vigorously and continuously.
  7. Allow to simmer until the liquid has thickened slightly, and reduced by roughly half. This will take ~10 minutes.
  8. Butter the bottom an oven-safe dish. Then place half of the sliced potatoes in the dish. Top with all of the sauteed onions. Next, layer half of the cheese. Follow this with the remaining potatoes. Pour the liquid evenly over top of everything. Lastly, top of the dish with the remaining cheese.
  9. Cover tightly and place into the oven. After 45 minutes, remove the lid/foil. Bake uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes.
Serves 4

Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese

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South Carolina is known for many dishes in the world of all things culinary. Favorites include low country boils, boiled peanuts, shrimp & grits, sweet tea, cornbread, and of course… pimento cheese!  South Carolinians seem use a fair amount of mayonnaise in their pimento cheese, but instead of Duke’s or Kraft’s mayo we made garlic truffle aioli.  Cheddar is the standard cheese for a classic SC pimento cheese, but we swapped it out for some flavorful Italian classics, Asiago & Pecorino.  The aioli sounds fancy, but in reality, it’s just homemade mayo, and probably one of the easier things we’ve made along the way.

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Ally loves pimento cheese, and its abundance down here has made her quite happy. Every time we buy it though, we wonder why we don’t just make some ourselves. “It can’t be that hard… right?” Turns out, it’s not! There isn’t a standard recipe for traditional pimento cheese, because everyone’s grandmother has the original recipe that no one else’s grandmother can beat. But the basics boil down to cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and chopped pimentos. What could be easier? Or easier to modify and fancify, like we did here!

[Note: this makes a large batch. Good for a big picnic, large party, or handing out in jars to several friends!]

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Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese

Ingredients: 
  • 2 lb Asiago cheese
  • 1 1/3 lb Pecorino cheese
  • 7oz jar chopped pimentos, strained
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 17oz truffle oil
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Instructions: 
  1. Shred all of the cheese and set aside.
  2. Prepare the aioli. (You can do this by hand or with a stand mixer like we did since we were making a large batch. The process is essentially the same.)
    • By hand: Separate out the egg yolks from the whites. Whisk together. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil. Whisk vigorously and continuously. Once the mixture has combined well, add the lemon juice and whisk until that has been absorbed.
    • With the mixer: Separate out the egg yolks from the whites. Place in stand mixer and turn on medium. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil, while the mixer remains on. Again, once the mixture is well-combined, then add the lemon juice.
  3. Combine cheese, aioli, and pimentos.
Makes 64oz.