18 April 2011

Cheese Featured 3 Ways

This past Friday an impromptu surprise birthday party was thrown for one of my friends. I was given 24 hours notice, which included my allotted hours for sleep (my love for sleep rivals my love for food, and that's saying something) and the following work day, but I up for the challenge. After considering what I had in cupboards and fridge and what ingredients I could buy downtown, I settled on providing some appetizers. Now while I tend to eat and cook with healthy, natural ingredients accompanied by spices and strong flavors, there are occasions that call for going all out, such as this party! Unfortunately, I appeared to have a lapse of memory and failed to consider that my healthy diet is also driven by a medical condition which prohibits me from indulging in fatty foods. Whoops. If you are like me, please be warned! These appetizers, while tasty and convenient to prepare, are anything but easy on the stomach!

First up was a taco dip that has been a staple at pretty much every family gathering on my mom's side for as long as I can remember. It's nothing fancy, but it's simple and delicious. I also went with an easy spinach and artichoke dip that I found on Closet Cooking. (Might I note that the artichoke bread from this blog is absolutely brilliant? You don't even have to go through the dipping motions, the dip is served pre-slathered on bread!) Lastly, I was reminded by the puff pastry dish filled with jam and brie at the party of another childhood favorite.

Taco Dip
  • 1 pint of sour cream
  • 12 oz of cream cheese (room temperature)
  • Taco seasoning mix, to taste
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 tomato (optional)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 8 oz of sharp cheddar or "Mexican" blend cheese, shredded
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Casserole dish
  1. Mix sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning in large bowl.
  2. Transfer mixture into serving dish, such as a 9 x 13" casserole dish, and spread out evenly.
  3. Chop peppers and onion into 1/4" wedges or smaller. Remove seed and pulp from tomato, then chop tomato into similar sized pieces as the other vegetables. (If preparing the day before, stop here and continue assembly right before serving to avoid the vegetables' juices from leaking.)
  4. Add chopped vegetables in an even layer to the serving dish.
  5. Sprinkle cheese evenly over vegetables.
  6. Keep refrigerated until party time, then serve with chips and/or dipping vegetables of choice.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip (from Closet Cooking with slight adjustments)
  • 10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 14 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped finely
  • 4 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1/2 c of sour cream
  • 1/4 c of fat free plain greek yogurt
  • 1 - 2 tbs of minced garlic
  • 1 tbs of garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp of red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c of parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 c of mozzarella cheese, shredded

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  1. Preheat oven at 425 degree Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together cream cheese, sour cream, and greek yogurt.
  3. Stir in spinach and artichoke.
  4. Add minced garlic, half of the chili flakes, and half of the grated parmesan to mixture.
  5. Smooth out mixture and then top with garlic powder, remaining chili flakes, and and remaining cheese.
  6. Bake dip for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown around the edges. Serve with dipping utensils of choice! (I highly recommend pita chips!)

Baked Brie with Applies and Cranberries (from Pampered Chef)
  • 8 oz round of brie
  • 1 tbs of butter, melted
  • 1/2 c of apple, chopped
  • 1/4 c of sliced almond
  • 1/4 c of dried cranberries
  • 1 tbs of packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Baking sheet
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine chopped apple, sliced almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. Mix gently with melted butter.
  3. Cut brie cheese in half horizontally, or the long way. (Envision the brie like a hamburger bun at this point.)
  4. Spoon half of apple mixture into the middle of the cut brie. (Following the hamburger analogy, the apple mixture should be placed where the hamburger is placed in a bun.) Spoon remaining mixture over top of the brie (or on top of the imaginary top half of the bun).
  5. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until cheese has softened and is beginning to melt. Serve with crackers and bread.


  1. These all sound amazing! I've been obsessed with artichoke ever since that cheese bread :)

  2. These sound wonderful!! I might have to make some this weekend for myself, no party necessary for cheese in any form :)

  3. It IS all wonderful! Thank you for your help! A fourth cheese feature (which we had at our un-birthday party, as well):

    Cut a fig in half (fresh or dried, I used dried because they're easier to find), place a pecan and some goat cheese inside and squish it together so it stays shut. Bake until warm and delicious.