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

Radish Chips, take 1

My son and I went a little overboard planting radishes this spring. Since they are quick to grow, I knew seeing all the little green sprouts within a few days would keep him excited about our little backyard garden beds.  

 

Now I’m stuck with a glut of radishes. I like radishes…but how many can one person eat? I turned to google and came across a few recipes for radish chips. They were all pretty vague, so I sacrificed just two radishes for the first try.    

I sliced them on the thinnest setting on my mandolin. I don’t use my mandolin often but it’s the only tool for some jobs. 

 

Then, spread them on a single layer and spray with olive oil. Since I’m lazy, I used the olive oil Pam spray. One of these days I’ll get a real olive oil sprayer… Then, sprinkle with salt. 

  
Then I baked at 400 degrees. They baked quickly and some of them got a little brown before I realized it. I mixed them up and put them on a lower rack in the oven to finish crisping up. 

  

 
These were delicious but need some work. The line between soggy and burnt is very thin but I have some ideas to help. 

Next time:

  • Slice them a little thicker to give them a little bit more cooking time.
  • Dry the slices before applying the olive oil. 
  • Less salt. I didn’t anticipate how much these would shrink up so the salt really concentrates 
  • A lower oven temp (350?) and the rack in the low/middle of the oven.

As for taste, these were surprisingly delicious. Crispy like a potato chip with just a little bit of the radish flavor remaining. If you like kale chips but wish they were a little more substantial like a potato chips, these will be right up your alley. 
I’ll be trying these again soon. Maybe even today since some of the radishes are really starting to crowd my pepper plant!

Sourdough Pretzels

  
My sourdough starter met an unfortunate fate during our recent move across the country. At first, I thought maybe I didn’t need to get another one since my other sandwich bread and basic loaves were coming along. hahahahahahahaha. yeah. That feeling didn’t last long. After we were settled, it didn’t take long for me to order a new batch of starter from King Arthur Flour.

I’ve kept my starter on the counter for a while to get it chugging along before it goes to its usual home in the fridge. Since a room temperature starter needs to be fed twice a day, I’ve had a lot of starter to use up. Technically, what I have is fed starter since it has been recently fed with flour and water but I used it in the Sourdough Pretzels recipe from King Arthur Flour anyway.

The dough itself came together easily without a lot of kneading. It took just a couple of minutes to go from this pile of junk:

  
 

to this beauty:

 

  
After a rise, it was time to shape the pretzels. All those years of play doh work have really paid off, no?

 

  
 

These were completely delicious. Soft and chewy with just a little bit of that nice crust on the exterior. They are soft enough that I’m considering using them for an amazing hamburger bun next time I make a batch. These were met with rave reviews by everyone and will definitely make a regular appearance around here to use up all the extra starter I have. I may try to par bake a few next time and freeze them. Sourdough pretzels from the freezer? Could it happen??

Sourdough Pretzels
From King Arthur Flour

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup unfed sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) non-diastatic malt powder
1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Topping:
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or sugar
2 tablespoons water
pretzel salt
2 tablespoons melted butter, optional

Mix and knead the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a cohesive, fairly smooth dough. It should be slightly sticky; if it seems dry, knead in an additional tablespoon or two of water.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 45 minutes. It will rise minimally. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface, fold it over a few times to gently deflate it, then divide it into 12 pieces, each weighing about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 ounces.

Roll each piece of dough into an 18″ rope. Shape each rope into a pretzel or any other shape youd like. These would be delicious as long pretzel sticks.

Dissolve the malt in the water. Brush the pretzels with the solution, and sprinkle lightly with coarse pretzel salt.

Bake the pretzels for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Note: This is correct; there’s no need to let the shaped pretzels rise before baking.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush with melted butter.

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!