Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Have Yourself A Merry Little Cheese Ball

Wiktionary defines a cheeseball, or cheese ball, as, "a spherical mass of cheese or cream cheese, often including nuts or other additions and served as an hors d'oeuvre or finger food, usually with bread or crackers."

Some claim the cheese ball originated with the 1,235 pound mammoth cheese structure Elisha Brown Jr. presented to Thomas Jefferson in 1801.  However, the spherical spread disappeared from cuisiniers' culinary repertoire until 1944 when the first known cheese ball recipe appeared within the pages of Virginia Safford's cookbook, "Food of My Friends."

Since the cheese ball's debut, the mixture of cheese, spices, and flavorful additives has become something of a holiday party tradition.  While I have no objective numbers to back up my belief, I'd bet good money the cheese ball is second only to the fruit cake when it comes to edible holiday gifts.

In any event, the holiday season makes me hungry for the dairy based cracker topping.  I could've picked up a fairly tasty one, for $5 to $10, from my local grocery store or Hickory Farms kiosk.  I wanted to make my own this year though, so I did what any good 21st century foodie does.  I surfed the web for recipes.

Today, a wide array of cheese ball flavors exist, including;
(Click on each flavor below to see its recipe.)
After reading these, and many others, I came up with my own recipe.  I knew I wanted to feature a smoky bacon flavor, and since I already had Parmesan cheese in my fridge, I decided to use it rather than traditional Cheddar.  The result is the recipe below.

As I'd hoped, the end product was smoky and savory with a slight tang on the finish, furnished by the dry ranch dressing mix.  Even though I like this version, you should feel free to experiment, keeping a few simple rules in mind.
  1. Use a soft cheese as a base.  You can add other cheeses if you like, but you need a pliable base (cream cheese, soft goat cheese, Mascarpone, etc...) which can be molded into a ball.
  2. Flavor your ball with additives that are tasty but not over powering (green onion, herbs, mild spice, packaged seasoning, etc...).
  3. Include a crunchy ingredient (nuts, bacon bits, green onion, etc...) for texture.
Once you have your cheese ball made and set, simply display it alongside your favorite crackers, bread, and/or crudités, and enjoy your holiday get together.


Bacon Ranch Parmesan Cheese Ball Recipe
Bacon Ranch Parmesan Cheese Ball
Subject: Bacon Ranch Parmesan Cheese Ball | Date: 12/17/2014 | Photographers:
James Kiester & Dani Cogswell

This picture was taken by the author of this blog.
Makes 1 Cheese Ball
8 ounces of cream cheese,
1 ounce of packaged dry ranch dressing mix,
3/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese,
1 (3 ounce) bottle of bacon bits

Take 8 ounces of cream cheese (softened) and mix till slightly whipped. Add 1 ounce of ranch dressing and mix till incorporated. Fold in 3/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Pour 3 ounces of bacon bits in a pie tin. Form cream cheese mixture in to a ball with your hands. Roll ball in bacon bits till covered. Wrap cheese ball in plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight to let it become firm.  Remove from fridge and serve with crackers, bread, and/or *crudités.

You CAN fry and crumble your own bacon to make your own bacon bits. However, according to the Cookbook Equivalencies Page of Wikibooks it takes 1.5 pounds of raw bacon to produce 3 ounces of bacon bits. Plus, when making bacon bits, for this recipe, unless the cook makes sure to dab ALL the excess grease from the bacon bits they run the risk of the cheese ball turning rancid. Not only are packaged bacon bits more cost effective, they're safer.

*Crudités is a French term for pieces of raw vegetables (such as carrots and celery) served before a meal.

Recipe prints as a single pages for your recipe file or refrigerator.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Atlas Hard Blackberry Cider Review - Micro Blog

Atlas Hard Blackberry Cider
Subject: Atlas Hard Blackberry Cider | Date: 11/25/2014 | Photographers:
James Kiester & Dani Cogswell
This picture was taken by the author of this blog.
Today I'm enjoying an Atlas Hard Blackberry Cider from North West Hard Ciders in Bend Oregon.  Atlas Hard Blackberry Cider has a deep hue of purple and rich berry aroma produced by  blend of blackberries and elderberries.

When consumed cold, it has a nice berry flavor with a clean dry vinegar rich finish.  It's a complex and tasty alternative to hoppy beers. 

Gluten free. No sorbate preservatives. Fruit grown by Northwest farms. 6.2% ABV. 22 oz. - See more at:
 Made from fruit grown by Northwest Farms, Atlas Hard Blackberry Cider comes in a 22 oz. bottle, for around $7.00, and is gluten free with no *sorbate preservatives with 6.2% **ABV. 

*Potassium sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid, chemical formula CH3CH=CH-CH=CH-CO2K. It is a white salt that is very soluble in water (58.2% at 20 °C). It is primarily used as a food preservative (E number 202). It is a skin, eye and respiratory irritant. Although some research implies it has a long term safety record, in vitro studies have shown that it is both genotoxic and mutagenic to human blood cells.
**ABV = Alcohol By Volume

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Feed Someone This Thanksgiving

The period leading up to Thanksgiving is a food blogger's favorite time of year.  We dig out recipes for; turkey, stuffings, gravy, potatoes, and pies; post basting tips, recommend wine pairings, and generally get pumped for the big feast.  In fact, I recently came across a recipe for Peking-Style Roast Turkey with Molasses-Soy Glaze and Orange-Ginger Gravy, and I'm flirting with the idea of talking my family into going such a route this holiday.  I'm a foodie, it's what I do.

Child of miner eating lunch on schoolhouse grounds.
Subject:Child of miner eating lunch on schoolhouse grounds. | Date: 09/04/1946 | Photographer: Russell Lee | This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.
Foodies & food bloggers, like myself, generally focus on the next yummy thing.  I was at my computer, ready to blog about an elderberry cider I'd discovered, when Food Network aired a commercial about child hunger.  I looked at the TV, looked at my computer screen, looked at the TV, looked back at my computer screen, sighed, and decided it was time to do some research.

According to the organization No Kid Hungry, "48.8 million Americans—including 16.2 million children— live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year."

Meanwhile, the USDA's latest data states, "In the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. The estimated value of this food loss was $161.6 billion using retail prices. For the first time, ERS estimated the calories associated with food loss: 141 trillion in 2010, or 1,249 calories per capita per day."

Putting these facts together lead me to a single inescapable conclusion.  Children aren't going hungry because there's not enough food.  Children and families are going hungry because we can't distribute the food we do have.

We can't distribute the food.  We can man an international space station and invade any Middle Eastern country we want, but we can't get a kid a sandwich three times a day.  Think about that.

I could go into a tirade over the bumfuzzled political causes of this travesty, but such an epistle would change nothing.  I'd rather spend my ink (pixels) encouraging people to address the problem in their own corners of the world.

Some people can work a soup line, drive meals to shut ins, and/or stock shelves at a local food bank.  Those of us who can't give physical services, can probably donate food and money to a reputable charity dedicated to feeding the hungry.

However we choose to help curb the tide of hunger, it's a good bet that doing so will make our own feast taste better on the 27th.
Instead of the usual links to related products, you'll find links to a few hunger related charities, you can donate to, at the bottom of this entry.

| No Kid Hungry | Save The Children | Feed The Children | Random Acts Of Pizza |
| Meals On Wheels | Loaves & Fishes |
| Portland's Sunshine Division |

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Little Caesars Pretzel Crust Pizza - A Review

I don't generally buy ready made take out pizza, simply because I like to choose my toppings.  However, being hungrier than normal a few nights ago, I shelled out $6.00 for Little Caesars' Pretzel Crust Pizza.
Little Caesars Pretzel Crust Pizza
Subject: Little Caesars' Pretzel Crust Pizza | Source: Little Caesars' Press Release |

Divided into eight large slices, the pizza consists of a soft salted pretzel crust topped with a Cheddar cheese sauce, cheese, and pepperoni, all sprinkled with an additional blend of Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan, and White Cheddar cheeses.

With the understanding that ready made take out pizzas sit beneath heat lamps before they're ordered, I knew, going in, that the pie would be lukewarm, rather than piping hot and fresh.  Thus, it didn't bother me.

In fact, I enjoyed the first slice.  The Cheddar cheese sauce was creamy, the pepperoni was spicy & salty, the four cheese blend was flavorful, and the pretzel crust, which the pizza is named for, tasted like a soft, ball park pretzel.

Yet, after the first slice, the salty Cheddar cheese sauce, salty/spicy pepperoni, salty blend of; Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan, and White Cheddar; and soft salted pretzel crust pummeled me with saltiness on top of saltiness on top of saltiness on top of saltiness.  The addition of mushrooms, bell peppers, and/or sun dried tomatoes would of added some badly needed balance to this one note pie.

A single slice of Little Caesars' Pretzel Crust Pizza would be a nice snack, alongside a beer, while watching sports with a large group of friends.  As a meal pizza though, I have to give Little Caesars' Pretzel Crust Pizza 5 out of 10 stars.