Cheddar Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball…

Want something quick and easy to bring to your next get together? This recipe is the one for you. I like this recipe for a wide variety of reasons. First, it is very easy to assemble. Second, and this is perhaps my favorite reason, it’s small enough to minimize waste but large enough so that everyone can have some of it.

I think that has been my bug-a-boo about most cheese balls. A lot of recipes make a cheese ball that is big enough to feed an army. And what always seems to happen is a lot left overs. So, with good intentions you wrap it up and put it back in the fridge. The problem is I don’t know a lot of people who eat cheese balls outside of a party venue. So the remainder sits in your refrigerator until you wind up throwing it away. But not with this one. It’s just the right size. And if you need a bigger cheese ball, just double the recipe. But my experience has been that when there are lot of appetizers to choose from, making an appetizer that is smaller in size eliminates a great deal of waste.

So let’s talk cheddar bacon ranch cheese ball…

Lesson Learned 1: I found a great shortcut for adding bacon to recipes. The last time I was at the grocery store I noticed a package of Boar’s Head fully cooked bacon. It comes in a box and is not refrigerated. Inside there are two vacuumed sealed packages of cooked bacon with approximately 6 pieces per pack. One pack was perfect for this recipe. I avoided all of the grease and clean up associated with cooking bacon. Since then I’ve used it on salads and in other recipes. I love the taste and convenience of it. You may want to try some. It really makes putting together this cheese ball a snap.

Lesson Learned 2 – Grate your own cheese versus using the packaged kind. Although I just touted the convenience of using precooked bacon, I don’t recommend using the grated cheese you get in a bag in any recipe. It may take a few seconds more to grate your own cheese but for flavor and  health reasons I strongly recommend it.

First, grating your own cheese is less wasteful less expensive and it tastes so much better. But the main reason I grate my own cheese is an additive put in bags of grated cheese know as cellulose. Cellulose is actually derived from wood pulp, yes wood pulp, and is added to packages of grated cheese to prevent the cheese from clumping together. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of adding wood pulp to my diet if I can avoid it. So next time, take the couple of extra seconds and grate your own cheese. Your body will thank you for it.

This recipe couldn’t be any easier, is perfect in size and is tasty as all get out. So try it and let me know what you think…

Cheddar Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball

  • Servings: 25
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1- 8 ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

5-6 pieces of cooked bacon, chopped

1/2 package of ranch dressing mix (you can add more to taste if you like)

1/8 cup fresh chives, chopped

1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl combine all of the ingredients except the chopped pecans. Mix well and form into a ball.

Roll the cheese ball in the chopped pecans until the ball is completely covered. Cover the ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Mixed Ingredients

Roll Into A Ball And Place On Top Of Chopped Pecans

Completely Cover With Pecans

 

 

 

Tangy Bacon Cheddar Yogurt Dip…

Fall is just about here. I can already see the difference in the angle of the sun that brings about darkness much earlier. You can feel the change in the air. But there’s still some time to fire up the old grill and have a late Summer party with great appetizers and good ole BBQ.

I’ve had a lot of practice making appetizers this Summer as my condo association hosts a happy hour every Thursday and although you’re not obligated to bring anything I like to use it as my recipe tester event. So last Thursday I made this dip and it was a hit.

Nothing very difficult about this one. It’s super easy, has tons of flavor and goes well with cocktails. So let’s talk tangy bacon cheddar yogurt dip…

Lesson Learned 1: Make this as tangy as you like. In my experience light heat is the most effective when making a recipe for a crowd. You can never judge the heat quotient of your guests so it’s best to give it just a little zip to a recipe so the greater majority of people will eat it. But if you know you’ve got a group that loves spicy, feel free to add as much heat as you like. It’s all up to you.

Lesson Learned 2: Used precooked bacon as a shortcut. I found a package of Boar’s Head precooked bacon and I used it when I made this recipe. It is a great time saver, you eliminate the grease and mess you get cooking bacon and the flavor is just the same. So if you’re really looking to cut your prep time, try that. If not, cooking bacon the old fashioned way is perfectly fine.

Lesson Learned 3: Serve this with veggie straws. I’m not sure how I got the idea to use veggie straws but they were the perfect compliment to the dip. I think people just get tired of the usual potato or nacho chips and this was a welcome change. They also lend themselves well to scooping some dip on the straw which makes this appetizer great finger food.

Lesson Learned 4: As with any dip, make it ahead of time. I know I’ve said this time and time again, but dips, cheese balls and the like always taste better when you give the ingredients time to get acquainted. So make this dip a few hours ahead of time and let it chill in the refrigerator before serving. The dip always tastes better a few hours after its had time to chill.

What I like about this appetizer is it’s quick and easy. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on this one and your guests will love it. Try it at your next get together. Enjoy!

Tangy Bacon Cheddar Yogurt Dip

  • Servings: Party Size
  • Difficulty: Super Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

6 bacon slices, cooked, crumbled and divided

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp. garlic salt

1-2 tsp. hot sauce

2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 Tbs. chives, divided

1 package veggie straws

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl combine yogurt, sour cream and garlic salt. Add hot sauce to taste. Stir in cheese and 1 1/2 Tbs. of chives. Add all but about 1 Tbs. of crumbled bacon. Stir to combine.

Transfer the dip to a serving bowl. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. To serve garnish with reserved bacon crumbles and chives. Serve with veggie straws.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup…

Soup Ingredients...

Soup Ingredients…

Even though we are in the midst of summer I still get cravings for soup. Now I have to admit I normally only make a home made chicken and dumpling soup (my mom’s recipe that I’ll post in the Fall) but this time I decided to venture into trying something different. I researched various versions of broccoli soups and decided I wanted to do a broccoli and cheddar combination.

I like this recipe for a variety of reasons. First it is absolutely delicious – second, it’s so easy to make, and third it freezes well so you can have some now and save some for later. So let’s talk about making broccoli cheddar soup…

Slice VegetablesLesson Learned 1 – Use all of the broccoli but cut the pieces small: Most often people tend to discard the broccoli stalks and they actually provide great flavor especially when making the soup. So when you are cutting up the broccoli cut up the stalks as well. Be careful to cut the stalk into small pieces. They are obviously more dense than the florets and will take longer to cook if you leave them in large pieces. The smaller you cut them the less time you will have to cook them.

The same goes for the carrot. I took a pretty big thick carrot, halved it and then quartered it before slicing it. Carrots are also pretty dense and the smaller you cut them the faster they’ll cook. The nice thing about this recipe is you can chop everything up and put it in one big potl. You sauté everything at the same time and that makes it easy.

Lesson Learned 2 – You may have to use both flour and cornstarch to thicken the soup: I know it sounds strange – but it worked. Once the vegetables sautéed in butter for about 5 minutes I added the flour and cooked it down with the vegetables for about a minute. You need to do this for two reasons: 1 – so you remove the “floury” taste from the flour, and 2 – So you won’t have any lumps when you add the liquid.

Before Adding Cornstarch...

Before Adding Cornstarch…

After I cooked the flour with the vegetables I added the chicken broth (this was before I added the stock). As I was simmering everything the liquid seemed a little too light and runny as you can see from the picture on the right. So I added the stock and then systematically added some cornstarch mixed with stock to the soup to thicken it. I wound up using 3 tablespoons of each but added them in three separated batches. That way I could control how thick the soup was getting. You may find you are happy with the consistency you get by just using the flour. But if not, you can always added the cornstarch in small doses until you get your desire consistency. I would make sure to add some stock. I found that by adding one cup it gave the soup a richer color and enhanced the flavor.

A couple of tips: Give the first cornstarch and stock mixture a little time to thicken the soup before you add more. The heat of the soup activates the cornstarch, but it takes a couple of minutes. Be patient. If after a couple of minutes you are not happy with the thickness add a little more. And, just remember, do not add cornstarch to the pot all by itself. You have to mix it with liquid and then add it in liquid form. Otherwise you’ll get lumps. I found a 1:1 ratio of cornstarch to liquid works best. Just make sure the cornstarch is completely mixed into the liquid before you add it (I stick my finger in and swish it around to make sure there’s not a pile of cornstarch on the bottom of the measuring cup). I could have mixed the cornstarch with water but since I had the stock, why not continue to add more flavor.

After Adding Cornstarch...

After Adding Stock And Cornstarch…

Lesson Learned 3 – Use an immersion blender to puree the soup: Unfortunately I do not have an immersion blender (but I think it will be on my shopping list), so I used my blender to puree the soup. You can also use a food processor as well. I had to puree the soup in several batches using the blender. An immersion blender allows you to puree in the pot you’re cooking in and that’s much more convenient. But if you don’t have one, a blender or food processor will do the trick. They just require a little more effort.

So here’s the recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup…

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

4 Tbs. Butter

1 1/2 – 2 pounds fresh broccoli, cut into small pieces including the stems

1 large onion chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced

4 Tbs. flour

3 cups of chicken broth

1 cup of chicken stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 Tbs. cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbs. stock, used as needed or not at all

DIRECTIONS:

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the broccoli, onion, and carrot. Add some salt and pepper. While vegetables are cooking mince the garlic over the pot using a zester and combine with the vegetables. Cook until the onions start to look translucent, approximately 5-7 minutes.

Add the flour to the vegetables and stir for about a minute or until the flour begins to look blonde in color. Add the broth and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Check the consistency of the soup during this time. If it appears too runny pour in 1 Tbs. of cornstarch thoroughly mixed with 1 Tbs. of stock. Add more if needed. It should take no more than 3 Tbs. of each to reach a nice thick consistency. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Add the cream and cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese has completely melted.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup