Cooking through the Snow Days: Lunch

It's been really cold here in Virginia lately. In fact, cold enough that the snow hasn't really begun to melt very much, but that doesn't mean that we can't begin to think about food that evokes feelings of warmer times.

What am I talking about? Two words - pimento cheese. YUM!!

For those of you who don't live anywhere near the south and aren't familiar with the concept of pimento cheese let me try to explain it. Pimento cheese is made from grated sharp cheddar cheee, but still - somehow - ends up being creamy. It has smushed pimentos in it and it's a little salty and I remember it fondly from childhood because my mom made me pimento cheese sandwiches occasionally when I had field trips. The other times she made peanut butter and honey and those were super yummy, too!

But back to pimento cheese. Buying pimento cheese isn't hard. You can find tubs of various sizes and prices but they will also vary in taste, texture and quality. And, yes, the Ukrop's Kitchen does make the best pimento cheese but it's something like $5.99 for 4 oz. So, over the years it's gotten me to thinking - just how hard can it be to make this stuff?

Well, looking at recipes side by side I couldn't come up with the common denomintors before my head exploded. Lately, though, I've decided that I was just trying too hard so I just jumped right in and picked a recipe to start from. I chose Paula Deen's Pimento Cheese recipe because if you want southern food you gotta at least look at what Paula's making.

Here's Paula's Recipe:
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 cup grated Monterey Jack
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon House Seasoning, recipe follows
2 to 3 tablespoons pimentos, smashed
1 teaspoon grated onion
Cracked black pepper

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add all of the remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. It can be used as a dip for crudite or as a sandwich filling.
House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

I keep Paula's House Seasoning on hand for other stuff so I didn't have to make that up and I didn't have any Jack cheese so I just used all cheddar. No biggy. But when I pulled it all together it still felt too 'mayonnaisey'. Maybe not a surprise since this is a Paula Deen recipe:) It also didn't seem to have much seasoning coming through. Another problem I had - I now had 5 oz. of cream cheese left.

So, I kept working and this is what I came up with. I may try something a bit different next time but I'll start with my recipe and work from there.

My recipe:
8 oz. softened cream cheese
4 C grated sharp cheddar
1/2 C mayo - I use Duke's and if you can get your hands on some I highly recommend it!
2 tsp. Paula's House Seasoning
3 Tbsp smashed pimentos

1. Beat cream cheese and then stir in other ingredients.
2. Put in fridge to chill before serving - if you can resist!

I'm not exactly sure how much this made before we started eating it but after we noshed for a while I put away a pint sized container. We noshed before chilling and it was truer to store bought pimento cheese after it came out of the fridge. Still creamy but not as wimpy in texture as it was at first.

So, if you're trying to figure out what to do with all that great Kraft Cheese you got at Kroger during the Mega Deals or if you also have more mouths to feed in your house due to snow days then think about whipping up some pimento cheese. It's such a Cool Idea!


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