Sunday, January 22, 2012

Grilled Pimento Cheese, Bacon and Pepper Jelly Sandwich


This sandwich combination has been on my mind for a couple of months, so today when I decided that I was past due for delivering a blog recipe ... and it was lunch time ... I finally did something about it.

Of course, I practically had to start from scratch, although I did have bread, cheese, bacon, mayonnaise AND jars of chopped pimentos and pepper jelly. What do you mean your pantry does not contain staples like chopped pimentos and pepper jelly?

I decided not to deviate too far from my basic recipe for pimento cheese, but did incorporate one addition -- Howard's Sweet Pepper Relish. And of course, the two most important ingredients, on which this whole culinary adventures turns -- crisp bacon and pepper jelly.

Just so you know, I have often made my own pepper jelly, but have turned to prepared brands lately because of the high price of red peppers at the grocery store. Growing my own is an option, and maybe even a necessity, if the price remains high this year.

Anyway, the recipe adaptation I used for today's pimento cheese is written below, along with the directions for making the sandwich -- even if recipe is an exaggerated term for adding bacon and pepper jelly to a plain old pimento cheese sandwich. Others have created something similar, but I do not recall having seen it anywhere, before it popped into my very own head.

Just a note for those who think using store-bought pimento cheese is a shortcut. Yes, it is. You will save five minutes, because that's about how long it takes to make the far superior version for  yourself, right in your own kitchen. 'Nuff said. Do as you will.

Here's what I did:

Homemade Pimento Cheese
adapted from Frank Stitt's Southern Table

3 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese (I usually use packaged Kraft or Sargento
shredded sharp cheddar cheese)
1 oz. cream cheese, softened (low-fat, if you prefer)
8-oz. jar diced pimento
1/2 c. mayonnaise (Hellman's, Duke's or Homemade only!)
Cholula or Tabasco hot sauce, several shakes (or to taste, or not at all)
1 - 2 tbsp. Howard's Sweet Pepper Relish

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Keep in refrigerator for several hours, or until ready to use for sandwiches, crackers, celery sticks or eating from a spoon.

Grilled Pimento Cheese, Bacon and Pepper Jelly Sandwich

2 slices good white or whole grain bread
Homemade Pimento Cheese
2 slices crisp bacon
red or green pepper jelly (store-bought or homemade)
butter (the real stuff is all I use, but you use what you want)

Lay out two pieces of bread. On one piece of bread, spread a generous, but not ridiculous, amount of pimento cheese. Break bacon into 4 pieces and place on top of pimento cheese. On second piece of bread, spread a fairly thin coating of pepper jelly. Place pepper jelly side on top of pimento cheese-bacon side of bread. Heat griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. When surface of pan is hot, melt some butter in the center of the pan and place the sandwich right on the melted butter. Cook until first side of bread is golden brown and crispy. Remove sandwich with a spatula and melt more butter in pan. Flip sandwich as you place right on melted butter. Continue to cook over medium heat until second side is golden brown and crispy. Remove from heat, slice in half and place on plate. Eat it while it's hot! And by the way, one sandwich could very possibly serve two people. It is a rich sandwich experience.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tuna Tetrazzini

Why is it that the post-holiday diet season arrives at the same exact time as winter comfort food season?

All winter long, I see visions of warm casseroles, savory stews and steamy soups when I ponder what to prepare for dinner.

Give me carbs ... creamy sauces ... melted cheese ... hearty vegetables ... and did I mention carbs?

But sometimes a little bit of compromise is needed to satisfy cravings and cut down post-holiday calorie overload.

It is possible to count calories and still enjoy seasonal favorites though!

An ingredient makeover can trim some of the carbs, fats and calories from heavy winter foods.

This Tuna Tetrazzini is an simple adaptation of a classic turkey tetrazzini. Turkey, roasted or boiled chicken or, gulp - little chunks ham - are also good options. This one of my favorite easy go-to casserole dinners, especially during cold winter months when it is such a comfort to dish up something ooey, gooey, stick to your ribs.

Dish up modest servings ... serve exactly as written here, if you are one of the lucky ones with no calorie issues ... or make your own substitutions for lower fats and/or carbs.

Let your conscious be your guide - and enjoy!

Please offer your own comments, substitutions or reviews of this recipe in the Post a Comment section right below the recipe.

8 oz. spaghetti, broken into 2” pieces (I use Dreamfields for lower carbs)
3 5-oz. cans tuna, drained (I use water packed canned or foil pouch tuna)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (I like sauteed fresh mushrooms)
1/2 cup chopped green or red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced green olives (plain black ones work, or pitted kalamata are very nice!)
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts (plain or marinated)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted (substitute low-fat or low-sodium mushroom soup)
1 1/4 cups chicken broth (substitute low sodium)
1/4 cup white wine or sherry (optional, but a splash of white wine is my choice for tuna)
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (use less cheese, or substitute low-fat cheese)

Cook spaghetti according to package directions and drain. In a large bowl, mix cooked spaghetti, tuna, mushrooms, pepper, olives, onion, artichoke hearts and ground pepper, plus 1 1/2 cups of cheese. Stir together mushroom soup, chicken broth and wine or sherry; pour over spaghetti mixture and stir to blend evenly. Pour mixture into lightly greased 13” x 9” baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and lightly browned - about 45 minutes.