Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese is known as a Southern specialty.  The basic recipe has just a few ingredients: sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and pimentos mixed to a chunky consistency.

While Pimento Cheese is a beloved Southern recipe, it did not originate in the South.  It was probably created through the combined efforts of Northern food manufacturers and cookbook writers in the 1870s  Around the same time, Spain starting sending canned red peppers (pimientos) to the USA.  They became very popular and over time the “i” was dropped from its spelling.

The original Pimento Cheese was created to combine two new products: cream cheese and canned pimentos.  After World War II, home cooks started making their own versions, swapping the cream cheese for cheddar and adding in mayonnaise to combine it all.  Source is Serious Eats.  Check out  their article for more history on this classic recipe.

I have been making homemade Pimento Cheese for a few years now.  It can be used as a spread for crackers, sandwiches, dips, and as a topping for grilled burgers.  A grilled burger topped with pimento cheese takes it to another level of deliciousness.  Try this spread.  I think you will like having it around for snacks.

Pimiento Cheese

  • Difficulty: easy
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4 ounces cream cheese, softened 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 (8) ounce block cheddar cheese, shredded
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (4 ounce) jar sliced pimentos, drained

In a food processor, process the cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, and seasonings.  Add the pimentos; pulse to combine.  Transfer the Pimento Cheese from the bowl of the food processor to a plastic container or bowl.  Cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator.  Keeps in the refrigerator for 1 week.   Makes about 3 cups.  

We have been getting cooler weather which has my summer perennials fading fast.  At least, the Althea bush still has some pretty blooms for us to enjoy.  Enjoy the few remaining days of summer.

 

 

 

 

Cherry Crumb Pie

Earlier in the summer, I bought 7 pounds of tart cherries from nearby Robinette’s Orchard.  Even with a good cherry pitter, it took a while to pit all of the cherries.  But it was worth the time and effort.  I made a couple of pies and I froze the rest for later use.  One of the pies I made was this Cherry Crumb Pie.

There are a few other orchards nearby that grow cherries (mostly the sweet variety) and occasionally I have seen tart cherries at the local Farmers Markets.  But the main cherry production is in the Grand Traverse area.

Cherry trees were planted there in 1852 by Peter Dougherty, a Presbyterian missionary and one of the first European settlers in the Traverse City Area.  As it happened, the cherry trees thrived and today with 3.8 million tart cherry trees.  Michigan produces 70 to 75 percent of the tart cherries grown in the United States.  The primary variety grown is the Montmorency.  This type of cherry is excellent for pies, preserves, and juice.  Source is here.

I did find frozen Michigan tart cherries at a local food specialty store.  Good to know for future pie baking.

Cherry Crumb Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 refrigerated piecrust (such as Pillsbury)

4 cups tart (sour) cherries
1 cup sugar, divided
4 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon almond extract

Crumb Topping
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie pan and crimp as desired.  Refrigerate until ready to add the pie filling.

Toss the cherries with 1/2 cup of the sugar.  Place in a colander set over a large bowl to catch any juices.  Let sit, stirring occasionally until 1/2 cup of liquid has drained from the cherries.

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, cornstarch, and salt,  Add the cherries and the 1/2 cup cherry juice.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2-4 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from the heat; stir in the almond extract.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a food processor bowl, mix the granulated sugar, light brown sugar,  flour, and salt together.  Add the butter and process until the mixture is crumbly; it should still have a dry look to it – don’t over process.  Add the nuts and pulse till coarsely ground.  Set aside.

Pour the cherry filling mixture into the unbaked pie shell.  Sprinkle the almond crumb mixture over the cherry filling.  Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling.  If necessary, cover the pie with foil to prevent excessive browning.  Remove the baked pie to a wire rack and cool before serving.

 

Here is a pretty butterfly enjoying the fading Bee Balm.  I feel like our summer is fading as fast as the Bee Balm.

Peach Ice Cream

I think most of us like ice cream.  I nearly always have a store bought variety in my freezer.  But homemade ice cream is so much better.  I have made strawberry ice cream and blueberry swirl in my ice cream maker and loved both flavors.

But, this homemade peach ice cream may now be my favorite.  It is a non custard type ice cream which makes it even easier to prepare.  Even without an egg custard base, it is still rich and delicious tasting.

You can use whole milk or Half and Half, but I recommend the heavy cream.  The heavy cream along with the pureed peaches will result in a silky-smooth homemade ice cream.

I used 1 cup of sugar because the peaches I had were not very sweet.  Less sugar can be used, if desired.

If you can find local grown peaches, that is even better.  I found some Brightstar peaches at nearby Robinettes Orchard that I used for this recipe.

Peach Ice Cream

3 medium sized peaches,  peeled, pitted  and coarsely chopped (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium sized bowl, toss together the chopped peaches and lemon juice.

Place the chopped peaches into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.  Pulse the peaches until pureed. (I had about 1 1/2 cups puree.)  Reserve in the bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the heavy cream, sugar, salt, and almond extract until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the reserved peach puree.  Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or overnight.

Turn on the ice cream maker; pour the ice cream mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.  The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture.  If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours.  Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Notes:
1.  Makes about 5 cups of ice cream.
2.  I used freezing instructions for the Cuisinart Ice 21 ice cream maker.  You will need to freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the summer.  I will leave you with a picture of a young cardinal that was hanging out in the Althea bush in my yard.

Cherry Barbecue Sauce

Local sweet cherries are available now.  They seem to be especially sweet this year.  I like to buy local cherries from one of my favorite orchards, Robinette’s which  is where I got the sweet cherries for the Barbecue Sauce recipe.

Years ago when I first discovered Robinette’s, it was just a very small orchard with an Apple Haus and a gift barn.  Over the years it has grown to include a bakery, winery, and a lot of family activities.  It is nearby and is still my favorite orchard.  Robinette’s must be doing something right, because they have been in business since 1911.

They also grow the hard to find fresh sour (tart) cherries. As well as the sweet cherries, I bought 7 pounds of their sour cherries for pies.

             

There are a lot of ways to enjoy the local sweet cherries.  Although, I think possibly the best way is to just eat them one right after the other.  However, this Cherry Barbecue Sauce is a great way to enjoy a savory recipe using sweet cherries.  It tastes great on grilled pork or chicken.

Cherry Barbecue Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
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2 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cups pitted sweet cherries, roughly chopped
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste (or ketchup)
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the cherries and cook until they are heated through.

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, honey, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.  Sir occasionally.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.  Then transfer the sauce to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  Transfer to a container and cool to room temperature.    Cover tightly with a cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Yields about 2 1/2 cups.  

Summer seems to be going by way too fast.  My Bee Balm was pretty this year but is now fading fast.  It is a good thing that the butterflies don’t seem to mind.

Strawberry Trifle

Since the strawberry season had a late start this summer,  we still have local strawberries available.  That gives us an opportunity to enjoy even more delicious strawberry desserts.

One of my favorite farms to visit is Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm.  They grow many fruits and vegetables and also offer U-Pick.  I especially love the strawberries I buy from them.  Later in the season, they also offer less than perfect looking strawberries at a discounted price for making jam.

I made this trifle for our recent 4th of July celebration.  This dessert looks really pretty in a footed glass trifle dish.  I used a round plastic bowl because I needed to transport the dessert.

This strawberry trifle is a delicious way to use some of the local strawberries.  In fact, I only make it when locally grown strawberries are available.

Strawberry Trifle

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 quarts fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
1 loaf (10 3/4 ounces) frozen pound cake, thawed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

In a large bowl, toss strawberries with the granulated sugar; set aside.  Let the strawberries stand at room temperature until juices are released, at least 30 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese with the powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the whipped cream until well combined.  Set aside.  (Reserve a small amount for garnish, if desired.)

Drain the strawberries.  Reserve the juice and set the berries aside.  Lightly sprinkle the cake cubes with the reserved strawberry juice.  (You may not need all of the strawberry juice.)

Cover the bottom of a large trifle dish or 4 quart clear bowl with half of the cake cubes.  Spread half of the cream cheese mixture over the cake cubes; top with half of the strawberries.  Repeat the layers with remaining cake cubes, cream cheese mixture, and strawberries.  Garnish with the reserved cream cheese mixture.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  

Note:
I used a Sara Lee frozen pound cake.

 

Strawberry Lemonade

Every summer, I look forward to the locally grown strawberries.  But this year, we had to wait longer to enjoy these red beauties of summer.  We had so much rain and cool weather that it caused a delay in the picking of the berries.  Strawberries need the heat and the sun to ripen.

Fortunately, our local strawberry season finally started a couple of weeks ago.  The strawberries are available at nearby local farms and Farmers Markets.  Below are some of the strawberries I picked up locally.

For the past couple of summers, I have been making a homemade strawberry lemonade made with the local strawberries.  This strawberry lemonade is a very refreshing and delicious drink and is perfect for a hot summer day.  It is also very easy to make.  For a more festive drink, a splash of vodka can be added to your glass of strawberry lemonade.

Strawberry Lemonade

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed and stems removed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup water

2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 cups water

Combine the cup of sugar with 2 cups of water.  Microwave for 2 minutes or heat on the stove until very hot.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Place the strawberries in a blender or food processor; top with 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Pour 1 cup of water over the sugared strawberries.  Blend or process until smooth.  Strain the strawberry puree through a fine mesh sieve, if desired.

Combine the strawberry puree, reserved sugar water mixture, lemon juice and 4 cups of water in a large pitcher.  Stir until blended.  Chill before serving.

Yes, we have had a rainy early summer but a bright spot to the rain can be found in rainbows.  A beautiful rainbow was spotted in West Michigan after our last rain.  Some even spotted a double rainbow.  Here are  photos of the rainbow my beautiful daughter took in Belmont, MI.

Notes:
1.  I used 9 standard sized lemons for two cups of juice.
2.  I have a BTipsy Jumbo Citrus Hand Juicer that I used to juice the lemons.  I got it several years ago from Amazon for about $14.00.
3.  Adapted from allrecipes All Natural Strawberry Lemonade.

 

Roasted Asparagus with Bernaise Sauce

I have to admit to being a new fan of asparagus.  I tried it a couple of  years ago and now I love it and look forward to the local Michigan grown crop.

The Michigan asparagus season begins in late April-early May in southwest Michigan and wraps up in late June up North.  I usually find it here in Grand Rapids around the middle of May.  Michigan ranks #2 in asparagus production in the USA.  California is #1 and Washington State is #3 in production.  Source

While asparagus is great simply roasted in the oven and served as is, I do like it with a Bernaise sauce.  For this post, I am using a shortcut for the Bernaise sauce.  It is made from the Knorr Bernaise Sauce Mix.  It is actually very good.  I have made Ina Gartner’s blender recipe for Bernaise Sauce.  It is also very good and not that difficult to make if you are looking for one from scratch.

Roasted Asparagus with Bernaise Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Easy Bernaise Sauce

1 (9-oz) packet Knorr Bearnaise Sauce Mix
1 cup Half-and-Half (or milk)
1/4 cup butter

Whisk the sauce mix and 1 cup half-and-half in a small saucepan.  Add 1/4 cup butter and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thickened, about 1 minute.  Makes about 1 cup sauce.

Roasted Asparagus

1 pound of fresh asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash and dry the asparagus.  Break or cut off the tough ends of the asparagus.  Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Toss the asparagus to coat it completely with the olive oil and seasonings.

Spread the asparagus out in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.  Serve with Bernaise sauce.

This time of year, we start seeing beautiful wildflowers alongside the roadways and in wooded areas.  They are actually an invasive plant called dame’s rocket.  They are still beautiful flowers and a welcome sight in late May and early June.  I took these pictures at a nearby park where I see them every year.

 

 

 

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