Cheese UnBalls

My Mom has been making these cheese balls for as long as I can remember. I snubbed them as a child because “they looked icky” but I’ve since come around. These things are straight out of the 1970’s when tacos were considered “international cuisine.”
My mom would spend forever chopping the dried beef and then making tiny cheese balls to roll in the beef.  I still remember the face she would make when my dad would come by and put an entire mini cheeseball on a cracker. All that labor and fussiness gone in a second.

Ain’t nobody got time for that and, thanks to my food processor, I can spend 1/25938293th of the time for basically the same result in spread form.


The hardest part of making this recipe will be finding the ingredients in the grocery store.  You are going to need prepared horseradish and dried beef. My husband thought it was some cruel joke the first time he was sent to the store with these on the list. The horseradish will be in the refrigerated section near the pickles/chip dips. The dried beef will be by the spam and canned tuna.

I know both of these ingredients sound terrible. You just have to trust that these will come together into a spicy cream cheese. And then don’t tell anyone what is in them until after they’ve tried them because you’ll get some funny looks and nobody will be willing to try them.

Bringing this recipe together couldn’t be simpler:  put the dried beef in the food processor and pulse a few times until it is about 1/4 inch pieces.  Remove the beef from the processor and add the cream cheese and horseradish. You’ll need to judge how much to use. Do you like horseradish/spicy food?  I do so I use about 1/4 cup. Start with less and add to taste.

Once you have a cheese flavor you like, add the beef back in and pulse to combine.  You still want decent sized flakes of the beef, so don’t blend until it is smooth. Serve on crackers, celery, bagels, anything you like!  It’s spicy but cool from the cream cheese–like jalepeno cream cheese but…horseradishier. The dried beef brings a little flavor but mostly it adds a texture element.

 

Spicy horseradish cheese spread

–two blocks of cream cheese

–1/4 cup prepared horseradish

–1 jar of dried beef

Pulse the dried beef in the processor to chop it up. Remove to a bowl.

Add the cream cheese and horseradish to the processor and pulse smooth. Add beef and pulse to combine

Toasted Ravioli

  

Honestly, I don’t know why these are called toasted ravioli because they certainly aren’t toasted in any way. Fried ravioli would be accurate but maybe that isn’t as sexy and exciting as “toasted”. Regardless, these are something any St. Louis native would recognize but they don’t seem to have made it to nation-wide recognition yet. That is a shame because you are missing out if you haven’t had these!
If you have ever fried anything, this recipe will be a cinch. If you haven’t fried anything before, this will be a great place to start. 
You can work with ravioli straight from the freezer. I used round cheese ravioli but my sister in law from St Louis insisted they should be square meat ravioli. I say use what you have and like. 
Crack a few eggs in a bowl and add a little milk or buttermilk to thin the mixture. Add some salt and pepper and beat the eggs for a minute.  In another bowl, season some breadcrumbs with some salt and pepper. 

  
Dredge the ravioli in the egg mixture, then the breadcrumbs a few at a time.  When you are close to complete, begin heating 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot with high sides. 

  
Once the oil is close to 400 degrees, add a few ravioli (one or two at a time). I put them on a slotted spoon and lower them in because I’m not into oil splash burns. 

Cook for about 90 seconds (more or less–this will depend on the size of your ravioli). Lay them to drain on paper towel while you finish the batch. 

Serve with warmed marinara sauce. 

  

Mr. Piehole’s Manchos

Below is a guest post by my husband, Mr. Piehole. While he has many, many fine qualities, his cooking skills are a little below average. I don’t really mind this since it means that he is fairly amazed at even the simplest things I do in the kitchen. He also goes and gets all the takeout, so I consider it a fair split.

————

My wife can cook and I can not cook. This is not to reinforce gender stereotypes to say that women can cook and men can not. Nor is it to say that all valid couples are male/female or that one is only valid within a couple or anything like that. One must always provide provisos like this on the Internet; never has our ability to comment gone from zero to Hitler so quickly.

Of course, we have on in the background an episode of MasterChef where they are assigning sweet versus savory baskets right now and the sweet baskets are pink with a bow. Really.

Anywho, you may know someone who can cook. In this post, that person will be my wife. You may know someone who can’t. That’s me.

If you are in the Ms. Piehole category, the first thing that you should know is that when a person says they can not cook, they do not mean this literally. They are certainly capable of holding something over a fire and applying heat to it. Then pulling it out and putting it on a stick, probably, because that fire is hot.

What they mean is that all of the shortcuts you have built up over time, they don’t have. They don’t even know the long way, or they would take it. This includes:
–Where stuff is. Saying the parchment paper is next to the muffin containers is like saying that Henry IV was king during the rule of the House of Lancaster. It’s true, but the novice wants to know whether he fought with swords, guns, or biplanes; your answer makes them wonder if they heard wrong and he has a brother named Tyrion.
–What stuff is. I once was sent to the store for dried beef. I like my beef moist, so this was an odd request. The me in your story doesn’t know where to even to start looking for this. There’s a good chance that your local supermarket stocker doesn’t either. I know — I was one once. I remember searching a produce department for jicama, which was pronounced gee-comma for me. Eventually, I had to leave that poor man, who is probably still wandering through a Pick n’ Save, surviving on foods we learned in our alphabet books like apples, carrots, and zebra meat.
–What stuff goes with other stuff. Before Ms. Piehole was Ms. Piehole, she caught Mr. Piehole eating rice, barbeque sauce, and corn. They happened to be the three things left in the apartment at the time. Today, this meal would be much better, but only because there’s more stuff in the house.
–Ratios. Not math ratios. Mr. Piehole calculates ROI, CPM, and CTR PDQ. But how much of one food would one logically want with other food? This mystifies.

So if you live with such a person, please treat them, in this area, as you would a novice. Don’t assume. Use good reference points like “it’s in the cabinet you always leave open.” There is a world of difference between “next to the oven” and “next to the mandolin.” You do not want your loved one wandering like Jicama Man.

If you are such a person, this “recipe” is for you. It can make you successful enough to feed yourself and your loved ones when you need or want to (and you should want to every so often). It is a basic food delivery system.

Other examples of systems I have worked to perfect…

hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Sorry. Thought I could get through that with a straight face.

Other examples of systems I have worked on are 1) boxed couscous, 2) minute rice, 3) egg scrambles/omelettes, and 4) smoothies. These are all things that have other things in them and can be adapted to your taste. If you like it, you may like it over rice or in an omelette or in a smoothie. If you don’t, but it’s good for you, you can shove it in there and probably not notice. Ratios don’t matter as much and can be refined over time.

So nachos were the next mountain to climb. Uh, molehill to scale. I have written this recipe for people like me. Be gentle.

nachos

Mr. Piehole’s Nachos

Chips, preferably tortilla. Would it work with Doritos or something? Try it and let us know (on the worst episode of America’s Test Kitchen ever!)

Cheese. Preferably shredded. Classical cheeses are usually yellow/orangeish. But if you want white, we will not judge you a cheese racist. If you are shopping for this dish specifically, go for Mexican mix. Let someone else sort out which cheese.

Other stuff you like to eat. I’d recommend a protein that someone with skillz already cooked (I used leftover ground beef (It was leftover taco meat I made with chili powder, paprika, cumin, chipotle, and cayenne–Meg)) and a tasty vegetable or three (I used green peppers).

Salsa. From a can or jar.

1. Get a cookie sheet. I puzzled on which one. I went with one that had raised sides. Any chance of less mess, take it.

2. Put parchment paper down on the cookie sheet. If your house is like mine, it’s next to the muffin containers. If not, can’t help ya. Basically, you want to cover the cookie sheet to minimize drippage and have an easy transfer to your eventual serving vessel.

3. Put down a layer of nachos. As many as you and your clan will probably want to eat.

4. Put down a big old layer of cheese. More than you would think. Finely shredded, especially, will melt down small.

5. Put down a layer of stuff. Actually, if, like me, you have a green pepper, you should cut it first.

5. (revised) Cut up your green pepper by cutting off the top (with the stem) and bottom. Slice it once and unroll it so the inside is up. Cut off the fibery parts. (This is the level you are dealing with, quality cookers. At least with me). Make them pretty small, about the size of the base of a Monopoly house.

6. Now put down your layer of stuff.

7. Put it in the oven.

8. Actually, you should have probably turned on the oven.
Revised step 5: Turn on oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This should be fairly precise. You want at least 50 degrees between you and the temperature at which books burn.

I’m just kidding. Nothing in this recipe is precise.

9. Put it in the oven. Wait about 8-10 minutes.

10. Take it out with hotpads if it looks like it would be tasty to eat. You are probably looking for the cheese to have turned into a flat surface rather than disconnected parts of cheese.

11. Transfer your parchment paper to a serving vehicle. Ms. Piehole suggested a white platter on top of the china cabinet. This was clearly overkill for a recipe including the ingredient “stuff”, but hey.

12. Put salsa on top to taste. Jalapenos too, if you dare. I dare to put them on for Ms. Piehole, but not myself.

13. Eat when they don’t burn your mouth.

grabbyhands

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy. In future episodes, maybe I’ll teach another platform. Or have burned down the house. Good luck!

PS. Step 14: Turn off oven.

Kolache

I had never heard of a Kolache before I moved to Texas about 7 years ago but, apparently, a lot of Czech immigrants ended up in Texas and started selling these little pillows of amazingness.  They have really caught on here and there are several Kolache bakeries in my town. Though they originated mainly as a dessert, stuffing bbq into them was really just a matter of time here in Texas.

We are preparing to move away from this area and, sadly, that means my love affair with the kolache drive through right by my house will come to an abrupt end. I have until the move to both eat as many as possible as well as learn to actually make the dough. Its unlike most savory breads I’ve had as it is super soft and pillowy and also sweet.

This is my first try and I’m going with the Kolache Recipe from King Arthur Flour, my usual standby for great bread recipes.  The dough came together easily and was easy to work with.

dough

You prep it the night before and allow it to rise in the fridge, so this recipe does require a little planning but I threw the dough together in a few minutes before we headed to bed, so its a minimal issue.

divideddough

The next day, the dough had risen a little and was ready to divide into equal-ish sizes. I rolled each into a small tortilla sized circle and piled on the stuffing. I went with bacon and cheese, since it is my personal favorite.

baconstuff

I gathered the edges up, smooshed them together and then inverted it so the seam was on the bottom.

readyforbaking

The kolaches around here have the amazing buttery quality to them, so I took an extra step and brushed them with melted butter once about 2/3 of the way through baking and then again right when I pulled them out of the oven.

baked

I was really pleased with how close these looked to the kolaches we buy at the bakery.

insides

The final result was close to great. I need to roll the dough a little thinner on the edges so there isn’t quite so much bread at the seam. Also, more fillings! The cheese really shrinks down so stuffing them with more will result in the nicely filled kolache from the bakery.

Other stuffing ideas:
–bacon and cheese
–cheese and jalepeno
–bbq beef
–leftover meats? brisket? Chicken?
–pizza toppings!