Pimento Cheese Sliders

July 22, 2016
by Mimi Holtz
4 Comments

Pimento Cheese Sliders and Other Great Ideas

Pimento Cheese Sliders

Much of the nation is suffering with exceptionally hot weather this summer.  No one wants to turn on their oven and it’s hard to want to go outside to use the grill.   Instead of serving big meals,  we’d rather have something cold and tasty ready to eat for snacks.  Pimento Cheese is the perfect summer staple to keep in the fridge!  Never heard of Pimento Cheese?  Your momma didn’t grow up in the South like mine did!

Southern Roots

Every two years our family of  6 would pile into the sedan and drive from Vermont to Mississippi to visit my mother’s family.  While we were in Tupelo, we would be invited to a tea party at “Miss Susie’s House”,  which meant we would be expected to dress up to visit a sweet elderly lady for some real Southern gentility and hospitality.  I have to credit our mother for teaching us to be gracious and to use our manners in a situation that was not typical of  our life in rural Vermont.

  As children,  we knew that customs were a bit different there,  and expectations of proper behavior were explained before each social encounter.  Say “thank you, Ma’am” and be extra well behaved at the table.   We were happy to comply because we knew that there would be pimento cheese sandwiches, served on white bread with the crusts cut off,  along with small tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad.  I’m sure there must have been pound cake or coconut cake on the table as well,  but I honestly don’t remember much besides those tangy-cold-creamy-sweet pimento cheese sandwiches.

Rediscovering Pimento Cheese: On a Biscuit!

Pimento Cheese Biscuit

We sat on a short wall in front of a shop to eat our biscuits. So good!

Last fall I rediscovered my love of Pimento Cheese when I was in Charleston, SC for the Les Dames D’Escoffier conference with Mary Platis of California Greek Girl.   We walked for many blocks to find Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit (and it was hot that day!) but OH how tasty was that flaky buttermilk biscuit filled with   creamy pimento cheese!

Vermont state Capital

I took this photo with my phone from the car as we drove by the state capital. I think it’s the prettiest one in the country!

Down Home Kitchen in Montpelier, Vermont

Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that Pimento Cheese has arrived in Montpelier, Vermont – the  capital of the Green Mountain State!  This is the town where I was born,  where real maple syrup is served with pancakes.  The buildings and streets haven’t changed much since I was a preschooler,  eagerly expecting a lollipop every time we went to the bank.  Right around the corner from that old bank building is a  new eatery  called Down Home Kitchen.

Down Home Kitchen Montpelier, Vermont

“Real Southern Soul Food – Scratch Made with Love”  is the perfect description for Down Home Kitchen.  Meet  Mary Alice Proffitt (coming through the door) who established this charming restaurant  after renovating an building that had housed a bookstore for many years.

Down Home Kitchen renovation

This is our daughter Marianne! Through the window you can see Mary Alice serving some customers outside.

We enjoyed looking through the photo album of the renovation while we were waiting for our food in June,  and Mary Alice plopped herself down on a chair to visit with us for a few minutes.   She explained that she hoped to get a grant to help recover the costs of the renovations.  We had our picture taken together to put into the grant application!    As customers came through the door, it was easy to see that she has established a family-friendly, community-minded treasure in downtown Montpelier where locals and tourists alike  can enjoy homestyle southern  breakfast, lunch, dessert or a beverage and snacks – wholesome food with quality ingredients.   We hope she gets that grant!

Down Home March 2016

photos taken in March 2016 Montpelier, Vermont

We had been to Down Home Kitchen once before,  on a chilly March morning,  when they were very busy serving hearty breakfasts.  We could have ordered pancakes with real maple syrup or an omelet,  but the Blue Plate Specials were calling our names.  Check out their menu here and see if you wouldn’t have a tough time making a choice!

pimento cheese finger sandwich

This pimento cheese has a little dill in it!

Every Fridge Deserves a Bowl of Fresh Pimento Cheese

Did you happen to see the Pimento Cheese finger sandwiches on the menu?   When Mary Alice heard that my mother came from Tupelo, Miss.  and that we grew up eating Pimento Cheese sandwiches in central Vermont,  she had a taster plate sent to our table — and Oh was it good.  Not only is it good in a finger sandwich,  but Mary Alice serves a burger that includes a generous layer of Pimento Cheese as a condiment! Now we’re really talking comfort food!

Are you convinced yet that every refrigerator deserves to have a bowl of fresh Pimento Cheese ready to serve?   How about a grilled Pimento Cheese sandwich!  How about Pimento Cheese with crackers!    Pimento Cheese quesadillas with sliced avocado!  Tiny fresh peppers stuffed with pimento cheese!  Celery sticks stuffed with pimento cheese!

Mimi Avocado’s Recipe for Pimento Cheese

By now I’ll bet you are wondering how to make your own pimento cheese!   There are plenty of recipes online with instructions for using several kinds of cheese,   a dash of Worcestershire sauce,  a little red pepper, sometimes even cream cheese or sour cream, and one even adds pine nuts — and I’m sure those are very good.    The Pimento Cheese we know is the simple kind, so I’m going to share that  recipe  here – there’s no reason not to make some when the ingredients are already in the pantry!   Note:  keep a small jar of red pimentos in your pantry at all times!

Pimento Cheese Sliders and Other Great Ideas
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dip or Spread
Cuisine: Southern
Make a batch of this tangy pimento cheese and keep in the fridge for sandwiches, snacks, topping a burger, or stuffing into celery, small peppers, or tiny tomatoes.
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. block sharp cheddar cheese
  • ⅔ cup good Mayonnaise
  • ½ jar sliced pimentos, drained
  • dash of lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Grate the cheese yourself. (Packaged cheese won't taste the same.)
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, and lemon juice.
  3. Refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors blend.
  4. Options: use different combinations of cheeses, add your favorite seasonings, herbs, a little dijon mustard, or subsititute sour cream for the mayonnaise. Be creative!

The World Needs More of This

As we were leaving Down Home Kitchen,  we stopped to watch as some children were playing a game of hopscotch on the sidewalk next to the restaurant.   Me:  “Wow!  That’s the biggest hopscotch I have ever seen!”   Child (overflowing with delight and self-satisfaction) “It goes all the way to 86!!”

And look: it’s Mary Alice trying out the hopscotch board!

hopscotch

If you travel to Montpelier,  Vermont I hope you’ll stop in for a meal at Down Home Kitchen and tell Mary Alice that Mimi Avocado says Hi!   Try the old fashioned  homemade banana pudding!

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Maple Ice Cream

July 13, 2016
by Mimi Holtz
3 Comments

Make Your Own Maple Ice Cream! (Maple Creemee’s)

 

Maple Ice Cream

With only 4 ingredients you can make this wholesome and naturally sweet summertime treat!   All you need is eggs, milk, half-and-half, and maple syrup to make homemade Maple Ice Cream!   Thank you to Davidson’s Safest ChoiceTM Pasteurized Eggs for partnering with me to share a pure maple ice cream recipe to make at home! #SafeEggsIceCream

Vermont’s Favorite Treat

If you have ever traveled to Vermont,  or if you grew up in Vermont like I did,  you will know what I am talking about when I say “Let’s go get a Maple Creemee!”   Entire families have been known to jump in the car on a hot day in summer to stand in line for  soft-serve ice cream cones (called “Creemees” in Vermont). There is nothing more refreshing than a cold creamy ice cream cone flavored with  pure maple syrup,  made  from the sap of the Vermont sugar maple tree.

mpale trees

I think it’s a marvel that Native Americans figured out how to tap the maple trees just as the winter is ending and the warm sunshine causes the sap to run during the day, even while the nights are still very cold.  The sap is clear and watery with just a hint of sweetness, but when it is boiled for the correct amount of time,  it becomes thick,  amber-colored syrup; a natural sweetener with the most heavenly flavor.

Maple Creemee

It is no wonder that Maple Creemee’s are so popular!  During my last trip to Vermont in June I had several Maple Creemee’s in several different towns (all in the name of research)  so I could come back to California and figure out a way to make this special treat for my family, and share it will all of you too!

Recipe for Maple Ice Cream

You can serve maple ice cream while it’s soft and creamy,  or let it firm up like regular ice cream.   You can even add some walnuts or pecans to make every dad’s favorite Maple Nut Ice Cream!                                               CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL RECIPE.

Safe Eggs and maple syrup

I always use Davidson’s Safest ChoiceTM Eggs when making homemade ice cream or anything that requires uncooked or partially cooked eggs.  Since they are pasteurized in the shells (using heat),  the possiblity of  contamination by salmonella bacteria is eliminated.  Click here to learn more about pasteurization.  Have you tried pasteurized eggs?  They are just like any egg you have ever eaten – no change in flavor or consistency – just safe!  ( They have a cute little “p” stamped on each one too.)  I hope you’ll try them!

Here’s a coupon to use for your Davidson’s Safest Choice® Eggs!  Click Here!

reducing maple syrup

Vermonters know that you should use Grade B maple syrup for the most flavor,  but if you have the lighter Grade A syrup, you can boil it in a small saucepan for a few minutes to reduce the liquid and bring out the flavor.  Set aside the syrup until the custard is ready.

separate egg yolks

Separate the yolks to use in the ice cream.   (Use the whites to make a delicious egg-white omelet, or whip up  some meringues.)

heating milk While the milk and half-and-half are heating,  whisk the egg yolks until they are lighter in color.  When the milk/cream is just beginning to simmer, remove from the heat and  pour 3/4 cup of the milk into the eggs, whisking together quickly.  Immediately pour the egg yolk mixture into the remaining  milk in the saucepan,  turn the heat on low,  and stir until the custard thickens.

thickening custard

You need to stir constantly so that the custard will cook evenly.   Don’t ignore this step, because the bottom of the pan will cook quickly and you’ll have lumps in your custard if you don’t keep stirring.   Just relax and slowly stir until the custard thickens.

How will you know that the custard is thick enough?   When it coats the back of the spoon and you can draw a line through the custard on the spoon that doesn’t go away.   See?

line on spoon

Now you can pour the maple syrup into the custard and stir until thoroughly mixed in.

strain the custard

Strain the custard through a fine-mesh strainer to ensure that the ice cream will be super smooth. (You never know if there might be some tiny little lumps … let’s not take any chances.)

ice bath cooling

Now you can put the bowl into a bigger pot filled halfway with ice and water.  This will cool down the custard quickly so it can go into the refrigerator.   The custard needs to be really cold before you put it into the ice cream freezer machine.  Cover it with plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Meanwhile,  make sure the freezer bowl for your machine is chilling in the freezer too!

That’s it!  Just follow the instructions that came with your ice cream freezer and soon you’ll be enjoying those oh-so-cold-and-refreshing Maple Creemees.

After the machine finishes working, I like to put the freezer bowl into the freezer compartment of the refrigerator to firm up a little bit.  Someday maybe I’ll buy one of those fancy soft-serve ice cream makers so I can make swirly  Maple Creemee cones just like they do in Vermont!

For now,  I’ll just add some toasted pecans or walnuts and serve my homemade Maple Ice Cream in a dish!

maple pecan ice cream

This post is sponsored by Davidson’s Safest ChoiceTM Eggs,  but all opinions are mine.  I love these eggs because there are no worries about Salmonella-related food borne illness.  Raw cookie dough or any food with undercooked eggs (like Eggs Benedict or even the ricotta filling for lasagna) can be served safely when pasteurized eggs are used in the recipe.  Go ahead and lick the spoon! #SafeEggsIceCream

Maple Ice Cream Collage

 

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Elevated grilled cheese sandwich has pulled pork and California avocado with Cabot tomato basil cheddar.

May 16, 2016
by Mimi Holtz
6 Comments

Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese with Pulled Pork & Avocado

Elevated grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork and California avocado with Cabot tomato basil cheddar.Here’s a grilled cheese sandwich full of flavor  for The Farmer’s Monday morning breakfast!   Pulled pork,  Cabot Tomato Basil Cheddar Cheese, and sliced California avocado on grilled sourdough bread.  I’m calling this the Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese with Pulled Pork and Avocado, and it’s a mouthful! Continue Reading →

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Carnitas Tacos with Avocado from MimiAvocado.com

May 4, 2016
by Mimi Holtz
3 Comments

Homemade Carnitas Tacos with Avocado for Cinco de Mayo

Carnitas Tacos with Avocado from MimiAvocado.com

When I think of comfort foods,  I remember coming home from school activities to a house filled with the delicious aroma of roasting pork.  As soon as the weather turned cool,  we could look forward to roast pork with apple sauce.  In those days,  roast pork meant a nice tenderloin roasted in the oven.  Now that I live in California,  I’ve learned to make a different kind of roast pork for tacos or burritos called Carnitas.

Carnitas means “little meats” and usually refers to braised pork that melts in your mouth.   Traditional Carnitas is a Mexican dish that originated in the state of Michoacan, where the pork is simmered in lard with salt, chili, cumin, oregano or Mexican oregano, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, and crushed garlic cloves.

I’m going to share how I make Carnitas for these tacos,  seasoned  with a homemade tomatillo sauce.  You won’t believe how easy it is to do, and how tasty it turns out!  Just in time for Cinco de Mayo too! Continue Reading →

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Tangerine Blondies with Chocolate and Pecans

April 25, 2016
by Mimi Holtz
12 Comments

Tangerine Blondies with Chocolate and Pecans

Tangerine Blondies with Chocolate and Pecans

Today I’m excited to share these Tangerine Blondies with you,  and the story about how they happened in my kitchen.  I don’t usually bake with citrus fruits, but after this latest discovery I’ll be doing more of it!

Are you a tangerine lover?  It’s so hard to wait until those gorgeous little oranges are perfectly sweet and ready to eat!  The Tango mandarin oranges that we grow here on the ranch are in season, so I have been looking for ways to use those sweet, seedless beauties in recipes. Continue Reading →

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