The Beauty of Pimento Cheese…

Pimento Square Plate with Names

I just remembered that I never posted the November 2012 article I wrote for the November issue of our local magazine here.  Enjoy you guys!  December will be posted in the next couple of days!  *smiles*

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There aren’t many moments when I went to Maw-Maw’s house and didn’t see a plastic container of Pimento Spoons Red 2 with Nameshomemade Pimento Cheese sitting proudly in the refrigerator. Come to think of it, it’s probably one of the first things I learned to make growing up – besides homemade Buttermilk Biscuits that is. It wasn’t always about the Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Cookie Jar, the paintings we would do, the late nights watching Statler Brothers on PBS, or the playing of (banging on) the piano. Part of the joy at Maw-Maw’s was that container of orange-colored goodness named Pimento Cheese.

Let’s take a look at what Pimento Cheese is for the folks that may not quite understand this Southern delicacy. It’s typically shredded cheddar cheese, diced Pimentos, a little mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. That’s it. You can eat it slathered between two pieces of lightly toasted white bread, sandwiched on crackers, or even spread into the hollow of a celery rib if you’d like. It’s one of those treats you can eat how you prefer and no one judges the method to your madness.

Speaking of how you prefer your Pimento Cheese – there are many different ways it’s prepared. Some like more mayonnaise so it’s creamier. Some like it thicker and chunkier. You can use Mild or Sharp Cheddar Cheese, depending on your preference. Some like it hot and add jalapeno, or even get adventurous with green olives and pecans in theirs. There are just so many tasty options when you start with such basic ingredients!

This brings me to my point – Did you know there are three different Pimento Cheeses that start with the letters “St” made right here in Alamance County? We have Stan’s, Star’s, and Steve’s. Out of curiosity, I went on a tasting spree the other day, and I wanted to share with you what I discovered with each one.

Before we start this, I think you need to know that I’m not one to be swooned by elaborate wrappers and labels. I’m a no-nonsense kind of Southern Gal. So, these were judged strictly on taste, and these are my Pimento Square Plate with Namesown opinions. Let’s go over each one’s high and low notes, just like at a fancy wine tasting.

· Stan’s (Burlington, NC) – Other than Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese, this one was the other staple in our house. There are nice large shreds of the cheddar cheese which gives it a thicker consistency, but still creamy. The coarse grind of black pepper in it helps balance out the mayonnaise twang. Pimentos are scattered evenly throughout the container, and the label even says it has Texas Pete in it. It’s a little higher in calories, and the high fructose corn syrup may contribute to that. However, I’ll make the sacrifice for a nice overall flavor.

· Star’s (Burlington, NC) – The “cheese” is quite a bit more processed in this one allowing it to be a thicker and creamier spread. The fact that it has a creamier texture would make it easy to pipe into cherry tomatoes or onto crackers as an appetizer at a holiday gathering. It’s definitely sweeter than Stan’s. The only thing that I found to be a negative about this one was the ingredients read “imitation” cheese, and this might explain the much embellished orange color of the spread. I guess this is why they call it Pimento Spread and not Pimento Cheese.

· Steve’s (Graham, NC) – You buy this little gem at Steve’s Garden Market in Graham, so that makes it a Pimento Cheese Bowls with Namesnice buying experience with the super friendly staff and great looking produce. If you’re a mayonnaise fan, this would be your choice. The first ingredient listed is mayonnaise, and it’s obvious why it’s listed first. The texture is very smooth, almost runny, with large chunks of cheese throughout and plenty of pimento. This was the only commercial one without High Fructose Corn Syrup as well. It ended up being pretty tasty. I personally prefer a little less mayonnaise with a thicker texture, though.

· Maw-Maw’s (Burlington, NC) – You knew I couldn’t leave hers out! Even though you can’t purchase it, I added it among the taste test so I would have my constant. Maw-Maw’s has always had Sharp Cheddar Cheese in it to give it a very cheesy deliciousness. She leaves the pimentos somewhat chunky so you can see and taste them. Very little mayonnaise goes in it, and just a hint of mustard. Salt and Pepper of course join those ingredients, and you end up with a nice chunky Pimento Cheese. What was that you asked? Any negatives about Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese? Only one negative…that you aren’t able to enjoy it with me.

Who would have thought they would have such similar names, but have such different flavors? Now I’m not one to tell you which one to go out and buy. I am one, however, to tell you to go taste them all. Life is about making your own decisions and enjoying the variety of options that you have in front of you to feed off of. Fortunately for you, food is one of the easiest decisions in life. I’m just here for guidance, and right now, I want you to smile. For the simple reason that you just read an entire article about the Southern delicacy that is Pimento Cheese. Say CHEESE y’all!

Pimento Spoons Words

Hungry for BBQ? You will be…

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I have another project I’m working on for a local company here, and I have had my hands in magically delicious pork BBQ all day long. Needless to say, my hands are pretty dry from all of the hand washing. *smiles*

These are four of the creations from today. When I saw the photographs I was able to capture, I just couldn’t resist sharing them with you!

My hope is that you find them as drool-worthy as I did!

Recipes? You want recipes? That’s part of the project, and I’ll let you know where to find them. *wink*

Southern BBQ Corn Puddin’

Charming BBQ Eggrolls

Carolina BBQ Stew

Explosion BBQ Pizza

Which one would you order???

Vote below!

Reflecting with Avocados…

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Allow me to reflect a bit, if you don’t mind…Let’s talk about beginnings and choices with the items around me currently…

Avocados – These little guys stare back at me with their green flesh, and I know they are firm, as I just poked them before sitting down to write to you. They are just beginning to soften up, and I can’t wait to make another tasty Guacamole with them. I am going to choose to let them sit on the counter, be patient with them, and I am going to keep a watchful eye over them each day until they are ready to be mashed into a perfect dip.

Saint Hooligan’s Maniac Punk CD – Saint Hooligan is an amazing punk band containing some brilliant local guys. When Saint Hooligan was formed, I’m sure they only hoped of having a CD that sounded as awesome as this one does. They nurtured their music, themselves, and their fans and became the greatness that they are today. I think I’ll put it in while cleaning later today…

House Plants – Don’t judge here….I am looking at a total of 11 houseplants right now. One of which I think I am killing, or either the cat has been salivating on it. I made a subconscious choice to walk past it daily and water it very little at one time. I didn’t mean to. Life just got busy, and I didn’t pay attention to the Sun that was beating down on it daily. That poor plant…I should have paid more attention to it.

Cup of Coffee – This cup of coffee…Mmmmm, as I take a sip…this cup of coffee holds the beginning of my day. Did I mention it is the second of the day. It also holds a choice I made…I chose to sweeten it with Splenda instead of sugar and to use only half of the creamer I am used to. It’s a step…a step in the right direction like my healthy omelet was this morning made of one egg and one egg white. It was filled with mushrooms, onion, ham, and topped with Gruyère cheese. Yum!

Sounds of a few beginning riffs on an electric guitar – The hub made a choice to purchase a new guitar recently, even though he is in the beginning stages of learning. I can hear a few riffs that I recognize that he is picking out by ear, and it is sounding pretty good. It’s a choice he has made to never give up a dream. We are never too old to pursue our passions or dreams…it’s a choice we make everyday when we wake up.

My reflection – As I have mentioned before possibly, I type these to you on Windows Live Writer. It has a black background, and with my alabaster skin, I reflect rather well in it. My reflection I see has changed the past year since I’ve been writing to you. I see a beautiful woman now. A woman who now believes in herself and her abilities in life. She is a woman who has goals now…a woman who is ready to challenge what life throws at her, and should be expected to throw it back at times. A woman who knows who she is, and will not let any bully put her asunder. It’s a real woman in that reflection…disheveled hair pulled up in a ponytail, fresh out of bed, makeup smudged under her eyes, jewelry from yesterday still in her ears, spaghetti strap tank with one strap falling off her shoulder, plump cheeks, a couple of blemishes, a slight double-chin from this angle, and freckles so dominant that they can be seen clearly in the reflection…a real woman who enjoys braless days.

Even though my reflection has improved over this past year, I will begin to keep a more watchful eye over her and her feelings. I will nurture her soul more, and be patient with her. I will not let the every day sun beating down on her kill her spirit. I will pay attention to her needs more. I will continue to make healthy choices for her. Amongst those healthy choices, will fall the choice to continue pursuing her dreams and passions, even if she doesn’t quite know where to go with them. But, most of all…I will let her relish in the idea of not being perfect…the idea of being a real woman.

As Shakespeare wrote:

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

As I look up again from writing, those damn Avocados are looking right back at me from the kitchen island. They are laughing at me because they know I cannot use them today, or tomorrow. What they don’t know is that I already have the recipe, and the determination to slice them open and scoop out their goodness in T minus 2 days. Mark my words…Tuesday…I will have perfect Guacamole. As for the Avocados…they are just the beginning.

On to a Guacamole recipe without actual product photographs (since the Avocados aren’t yet ripe), now that you’ve read my thoughts for the day so patiently! *smiles*

Feel free to use a Guacamole seasoning packet, but it really is simple to make fresh. Try this recipe out sometime…You’ll love it…

Fresh Guacamole

  • 3 Avocados
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 red jalapeno, finely diced (or green)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro (give or take depending on your taste)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced (give or take depending on your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (optional)
  • dashes of hot sauce to taste

Directions:

Mash the avocados, and mix in the rest of the goodies. Makes about a cup. Enjoy!

Did you miss National Cheese Day???

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Well, if you did…It’s not a big deal. There’s always today. *smiles*

It seems that we have become – or have always been – a cheese loving world. There are days all around to celebrate cheese. See below for a list I found through this site…(Disclaimer: Some of these are quite wacky, and I’m not sure how in stone they are.)

  • National Cheese Lover’s Day – January 20th
  • Cream Cheese Brownie Day – February 10th – Yum!
  • National Cheese Doodle Day – March 5th – Cartman said it best…“I love Cheesy Poofs, you love Cheesy Poofs. If we didn’t eat Cheesy Poofs, we’d be lame. I’m talkin’ Night-Court-in-it’s-fifth-season lame-aaaahh!”
  • National Cheeseball Day – April 7th – I have a delightful chocolate chip cream cheese ball recipe I need to share with you guys!
  • National Cheese Fondue Day – April 11th – Still haven’t explored fondue to it’s fullest. Note to self: Do this!
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day – April 12th – Ummm….yeah…don’t need a holiday for this one. *smiles*
  • National Cheese Souffle Day – May 18th
  • National Dairy Month – June – Moooooooooooooooo!
  • National Cheese Day – June 4th
  • Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day – July 29th – Curious what this is too??? Check out this post from Sandwich Lover’s Club for more details.
  • National Cheesecake Day – July 30th – There are multiple cheesecake flavor days throughout the year.
  • Moldy Cheese Day – October 9th – Ummmmm….ok.

My point being, there are many cheese holidays out there. But, to the true cheese lover…do we really need a holiday? It begs a questions that I side with whole-heartedly….Why wait until a holiday to truly enjoy the foods that we love?

Whether enjoying wine, cheese, oreos, ice cream, butter, steak, bacon, etc….. Why put off til tomorrow what you can do today? Hehe, like how I spun the ol’ slogan for getting work done to focus on food? *smiles*

So, yes, thanks to Tillamook Cheese for reminding me that June 4th is National Cheese Day. I needed a highlight to the day, and what better highlight than CHEESE! Just as Tillamook Cheese states in regards to this holiday… “But who needs an official holiday to tell them when to eat cheese, right? It’s not like I only eat jelly beans on Easter or Apple Pie on the 4th of July. Regardless, I do plan on eating one of my favorite cheeses today and celebrating the fact that Tillamook has been making it for over 100 years.”

I celebrated National Cheese Day, and I celebrated it with my last baby loaf of Tillamook Cheese – Tillamook Vintage White, Smoked Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, aged over 2 years (Are you drooling yet?) Talk about mouth-wateringly rich! This cheese is beautiful, and there is a reason that Tillamook has been making cheese for over 100 years. Cheers on National Cheese Day to a farmer-owned company with fabulous product!

In closing, don’t wait to enjoy the beauty of the foods around you. If you miss a holiday, it’s ok…just eat it the day after. I’ll never tell.

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***Nutella Recipe: Nutella Love Cups

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I can’t believe I did that!  I forgot the most requested, most yummy recipe from the World Nutella Day party…that’s horrible! 

This recipe is what happens when Cream Cheese and Nutella get together and make a baby…These little guys were soooooooooo amazing.  I suggest you make these for your next appetizer party, or if you need a fun mini-dessert, or heck, if you just want to indulge in some Nutella. 

I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved these!  Honestly, I just love preparing items with the little mini-filo cups.  Just like my dear croissants, they are very versatile.  This recipe, I snagged from Nicisme with Cherrapeno.com.  Nicisme had a beautiful recipe all outlined and photographed beautifully (everything is beautifully photographed on this site, must see!).  Needless to say, I altered it slightly, and made it easier on myself.  Nicisme made the filo cups, and I bought them pre-made out of the freezer section.  By all means folks, if you have the talent to make them homemade, please do!  Otherwise, if you aren’t as talented as Nicisme, and you are more like me, you can find them in your local grocer’s freezer section near the cool-whip and frozen fruit.

You can find Nicisme’s recipe by clicking here.  My recipe is below…

Nutella Love Cups

  • 1/2 block of cream cheese  (4 ounces)
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • white chocolate chips
  • 60 mini-filo pastry cups (4 boxes, 15 in each box)
  • chopped hazelnuts or pecans (I normally find it hard to locate hazelnuts around these parts, so I opt for local-grown pecans.)

Directions

  1. Follow the instructions on the package for thawing the cups and lay out together on wax paper on the counter.
  2. Blend the cream cheese and Nutella together until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.
  3. Empty the white chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl and nuke in 30-second increments, stirring after each time, until the chips are melted and smooth.  This might take about 3 times, be careful not to burn them.
  4. Take a spoonful of the melted chocolate and being slowly tilting it above the cups to allow a string to start falling.  Then, move back and forth to create zig-zags over all of the cups and to give them a nice pretty coating to your liking.
  5. After the chocolate is done, put a dollop of the Nutella mixture in each one.  It won’t take much, as these are small capacity cups.
  6. Next, sprinkle the chopped pecans or hazelnuts over the batch sparingly.  You don’t want the nuts to overcome the pretty designs you just made…..*smile*
  7. Refrigerate for an hour to set the chocolate and serve. 

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**Nutella Party Sneak Peak…**

nutella stand

10 hours of baking yesterday, 6 hours of prep this morning, 2 hours of guests and partying, one VERY successful World Nutella Day Party!

I believe 85% of the guests had not tried Nutella before.  So, of course I was thrilled to be their first experience.  Every single one of them loved it! 

You can find the party menu here

Needless to say, I am completely whooped.  I promise that I will have recipes coming up throughout this next week.  Also, I will be honest when I put them up, and let you know what I would change, what I wouldn’t, and what was a favorite of everyone.  I can say this…everything, and every recipe I made from others was absolutely amazing! So not much will be changed when I post them.  To tide you over until I have the oomph to put the recipes up…I present to you a few of my favorite pictures from the party goodies…YUM!  Enjoy!

The stand I used for a few of the goodies…was borrowed from Mom.  It’s a special made stand that you can interchange the inner dividers to  match your occasion, and you can put different ribbons around the edge of each level.  It worked out great for World Nutella Day labels!  Love it!

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World Nutella Day, Feb 5th…Say Whaaaaat???

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World Nutella Day – February 5, 2011

I can’t wait!!!  I decided yesterday to do a World Nutella Day Party to celebrate the wonders and versatility of my friend, Nutella.  The ideas are flooding into my head, to the point I feel it’s going to explode with Nutella goodness overload!  So, this is just to advise you to be on the lookout for amazing things to come…involving NUTELLA!!!

If you haven’t experienced Nutella yet, purchase a wonderful jar today in your local grocery store.  Should be hanging out near my other friend, Peanut Butter…..

Click here for FAQ’s from the Nutella USA website.

From NutellaUSA.com: “Nutella® spread, in its earliest form, was created in the 1940s by Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company. At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II rationing.  So Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy (northwest), to extend the chocolate supply.”

Check out a ton of Nutella recipes here on NutellaDay.com.  Some of which I will be making for the party!  Still so excited about the planning!!! 

Yes, as referenced above, there is a World Nutella Day website that explains the beginnings of World Nutella Day.  Check it out here.

As I leave you, please consider trying Nutella.  If you didn’t know…those perfect little gold balled truffles called Ferrero Rocher’s are filled with delicious Nutella.  So, maybe you have had Nutella before and didn’t even know it!  Amazing, eh?

The picture is from a little appetizer I put together a while back…slices of Banana, Nutella (of course), and chopped Hazelnuts sprinkled on top.  Yummmmmm…

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Featuring: Beaux’s Ultimate Tuna Salad

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I am really enjoying doing this site (as many of you clearly know this).  I’m enjoying the connections I am forming with new people who read my blog, as well as finding new blogs to read myself.  I stumbled across this one blog.  You’ve heard me mention it here before… Holy Poached Egg.  The guy that runs it has been extremely helpful, and he has a very fun blog to read on Southern Food and Friends.  One of the first posts I read of his talked about this infamous Tuna Salad that he makes.  Supposedly so good, and as the hub says, it’s so good it’ll make ya wanna slap your momma.  Keyword in that previous statement…”wanna” not “goin’ to”.  Just wanted to make that clear.  I had asked him before for the recipe, but he’s held out on me…until the other day.  He finally posted it!  Of course, there was a grocery store trip today, and of course I bought the ingredients to make Beaux’s Ultimate Tuna Salad. 

I’m just going to show you pictures below.  You will have to visit his site to see the exact amounts of each ingredient.  The only thing I didn’t have…was celery seeds.  He specifically states this is an important ingredient.  So, the next time I make it, I will make sure I have those on hand.  When I served it with some Whole Wheat Ritz Crackers, I sprinkled a little Smoked Paprika on top of it.  A very nice touch to the fishiness of the tuna.  He also says to let the flavors meld overnight, but I couldn’t wait til overnight.  We tried it immediately after prep, and will take some to work tomorrow for my entertainment and enjoyment.  I also didn’t have any pickle relish, so I went to the corner of Cucumber and Vine and finely chopped some Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Pickles from right here in North Carolina.  You could also substitute chicken for tuna if you wanted.  It was super delicious and highly recommended!  Enjoy!

Check out the full information and recipe here…Beaux’s Ultimate Tuna Salad.

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Dippity Do Da, Dippity Dips…

I’m sure we are all familiar with Flo, the Progressive Insurance spokes character.  She strikes me as a simple gal.  One that enjoys the fun things in life.  One that isn’t afraid to smile and be blissful.  She also strikes me as a dip lover.  Those simple yet elegant dips that we can all make very easily.  I thought to myself, “Myself, why not make a few different dips and have a simple, blissful, Flo’y Christmas Eve dinner?”  So, that is what I did.  I hunted down recipes that seemed simple, yet elegant.  Well, as elegant as your simple basic dip can get.  Below, I have all four recipes I used.  I served mixed fresh veggies and a variety of crackers to dip.  Not many pictures you guys.  But, you can see how I used my labels for identifying the dips.  Not very fancy, but at least everyone knew what they were eating…

My recommendations for a couple of the contents below…I always use Daisy Light Sour Cream, and I always use Duke’s Mayonnaise (it’s a southern thing I think).  I feel most everything else is interchangeable with store brands.

Onion Cream Cheese Dip

  • 1 package Lipton onion soup
  • 1 1/2 pints sour cream
  • 1 large package cream cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Cream the cheese; stir in the sour cream and seasonings.  Add soup mix.  Combine well.  Thin with extra cream if necessary.

Christmas Confetti Dip

  • 1 cup fat-free or reduced-fat sour cream
  • 4 teaspoons dry ranch-style salad dressing mix
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped zucchini

Combine sour cream and dressing mix in medium bowl; mix well. Stir in chopped vegetables; cover. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours for flavors to blend.

Cucumber Pecan Dip

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely chopped
  • black pepper & salt, to taste
  • 4 drops Tabasco sauce, opt.
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Blend in the remaining ingredients and allow to chill for several hours to allow for the flavors to develop.

Ranch Sour Cream Dip

(the easiest dip ever)

  • 1 envelope of Ranch Dip Mix
  • 1 large container of sour cream

Mix together and enjoy!