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~ Mel's Herbaceous Holiday Cream Cheese Spread~

IMG_9712Like many others in the food world, over the next two weeks, my kitchen is going to experiece a marked increase in activity.  Some of it has been planned in advance, some of it will be impromptu, but all of it will be casual -- very casual.  I have my reasons.  Suffice it to say that during the holidays, I offer my kitchen counter as an oasis -- a respite from blinking lights, blaring carols and brash displays of lawn ornaments.  It's all about friends and family finding the time to stop by to sip on a beverage, tell a tale or two and exchange a yuletide greeting.  Depending upon the time of day, I always offer a snack:  Coffee or 'nog and cookies in the morning hours; wine or cocktails with some form of cheese and crackers for the afternoon or evening.

IMG_9707 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0ad3556970cThis year, I reached for my pizzelle irons.  I made a big batch of my ~ Double-Lemon and Vanilla Kissed Pizzelle Cookies~ (recipe in Categories 7 & 12), and an even bigger batch of my ~ Savory Pecorino & Pepper Mini-Pizzelle Snackers ~.  I made enough to last for two weeks and each one is safely stored in a big cookie can on a shelf in my pantry.  

IMG_6747Baking savory "cookies" is as easy as baking sweet cookies, and, I must report:  people expect homemade cookies, but they get really exited about homemade cheese crackers.  My post ~ Home for the Holidays, The Cheese Cracker Tray ~ can be found in Categories 1, 2 or 11.  Pictured here are my Brie Shortbread, Cheddar Cheese Sticks, and, Gorgonzola Wafers.  Needless to say, these were the inspiration for me to develop the Pecorino and Pepper Pizzelle Snackers!

While my savory pizzelles are great on their own, I did come up with a quick and easy cream cheese spread to serve with them.  The spread contains all the same seasonings I used in the pizzelles, plus some garlic powder too, so it complements the pizzelle perfectly.  Once the cream cheese and butter come to room temperature, it gets mixed in less than one minute.  

IMG_9850I'm willing to wager you have all of the ingredients on-hand!

IMG_97648  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

4  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1  tablespoon herbes de Provence (a blend of rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory)

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic and onion powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_9776~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, place all of the ingredients as listed:  

IMG_9768Starting on lowest speed of hand-held electric mixer and gradually working your way up to high speed, thoroughly combine, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of bowl almost constantly, about 45-60 total seconds.  The mixture will be soft, smooth, creamy and spreadable.

~ Step 3.  Transfer the mixture to a 2-cup food storage container, cover it, and, refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  It's best after it has time for all of the flavors to marry.  When you want to serve it, remove it from the refrigerator about 1-1 1/2 hours ahead of time.

I prefer a professional presentation & it's easy to do:

Because I want to have this spread on hand to serve randomly to my guests over the next two weeks, I've come up with a way to allow me to make a triple or quadruple batch, portion it into 6-8 molds, refrigerate it, and, serve this, at the spur of the moment, and in an attractive way!

IMG_9779Meet my 3"-round, 2"-high, 1-cup size, restaurant-quality, mini cheese cake pans, complete with removable bottoms.  I have a two dozen of these and I love them.  I invested in them several years ago for a catering client who wanted individual cherry cheesecakes served for dessert.  These are the perfect size for me to mold almost any cream cheese-based spread, and remove it all in one piece for a pretty presentation!

IMG_9795Using a pen or a pencil, trace around one the bottoms on a piece of parchement paper, making as many circles as you'll need.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut around the inside of the lines.  

IMG_9798Place one cutout in the bottom of each pan.

Using an ordinary tablespoon, portioning and dividing as evenly as possible, spoon the soft cheese IMG_9804spread between the two molds, mounding it towards the center.

IMG_9809Using the back of the spoon, press and spread the mixture evenly down and into the sides of the mold.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate as IMG_9814directed (at least 2 hours).

IMG_9811To serve, remove from refrigerator. Using a sharp paring knife, cut around the perimeter of pan, to loosen the spread from the sides.  

Invert onto a serving dish and gently press down on center of the removable bottom.  The cheese will IMG_9825slip effortlessly down and onto the dish.  Lift the sides up and off.

IMG_9827Remove the bottom, peel back the parchment paper, cover loosely with plastic wrap and all to come to room temperature, or desired consistency, 1-1 1/2 hours.

When desired consistency is reached -- it's snack time! 

IMG_9733'Tis great spread on a freshly-roasted chicken or turkey sandwich too!

IMG_9888Mel's Herbaceous Holiday Cream Cheese Spread:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups of cheese spread.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container w/lid, or, 2, 3"-round x 2" high mini-cheesecake pans w/removable bottoms; parchment paper; kitchen shears; tablespoon; plastic wrap; sharp paring knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0a19469970cCook's Note:  For those occasional times when I entertain overnight guests during the holiday season, casual is the theme that reins supreme for breakfast at my kitchen counter too.  My decadent, make ahead recipe for ~ Rise and Shine: Creamy Crustless Crabmeat Quiche ~ can be found in Categories 3, 9, 11, 14, 20 or 21.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


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