Charleston Cheese Dip

charleston cheese dip

We grilled hamburgers with a few friends after the Thanksgiving eat-a-thon last week, and I needed a little snacky bite while people were waiting for dinner. Since I had not consumed enough rich, calorie filled food prior to the hamburger dinner (ha!), I decided we needed a really good dip with lots of melted cheese. I made a Charleston Cheese Dip that is incredible. The consumption rate may have been faster than the Hot Vidalia Onion Dip, which I did not think possible.

charleston cheese dip pre baked

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese (I used Cracker Barrel)
  • 1/2 to 1 c. Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 8 butter crackers, crushed (I used Ritz)
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Frito scoop chips, more Ritz crackers, or pita chips for serving

charleston cheese dip close

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, green onions, minced garlic, and cayenne pepper (if using).
  • Transfer the mixture to a shallow baking dish. I used a quiche dish. A 9-inch pie pan will work too.
  • Top the mixture with cracker crumbs and bake until heated through, browned on the top, and bubbly around the edges.
  • Remove from the oven and top with the bacon.
  • Serve immediately with chips or crackers.

charleston cheese dip bite

Sugar Bacon

sugar bacon piece

Gather round, bacon lovers. One of my dearest friends from the ATL e-mailed me about my sugar bacon recipe. This unbelievably delicious treat has been off my radar for awhile. It is so good I actually requested it as a passed hors d’oeuvres at my wedding. I made a batch today and practically fell over while eating (the entire plate I might add– by myself) because it is so good. Let me know if you think it is as delicious as I do.

sugar bacon stackedIngredients

  • bacon (I use about 1/2 lb. for 4 people)
  • light brown sugar
  • dry mustard (optional)
  • Silpat, Tephlon bakeware liner, or foil to line your pan
  • jelly roll pan, roasting pan, or something with a lip

sugar bacon ingredientsDirections

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cut bacon slices in half. Scoop about 3/4 c. of brown sugar into a wide, flat dish. Add a few dashes of dried mustard if using and mix with a fork, so the brown sugar is separated.

teflon liner

  • Line your baking pan with some sort of liner. I like the Tephlon bakeware liners or tin foil. You want the liner to come up around the edges of the pan, so carmelized brown sugar does not get on your pan. That makes the clean-up very difficult.

sugar bacon procedure

  • Pat each slice of bacon in the brown sugar on both sides. The bacon will NOT be thickly covered with the brown sugar.
  • Place bacon slices side by side in the pan. Try not to let the edges touch. The bacon gets very sticky while cooking.

sugar bacon pan

  • Bake bacon for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn slices over (tongs work best). Put bacon back in the oven and cook another 5 minutes until browned and crispy. Watch carefully after the first 10 minutes of baking because the bacon changes from slightly undercooked to burned in a blink.

sugar bacon finished

  • Remove the pan from oven and get the bacon slices off the pan immediately. Lay the bacon slices flat on a cooling rack or a non-stick cookie sheet. I put paper towel under my cooling rack. Do not put the bacon directly on the paper towel! Let cool to room temperature before serving.

sugar bacon coolingNotes

  • I like regular Oscar Mayer original slice bacon. I have tried fancy bacon or a thicker cut, and the bacon does not crisp as well or get the good candy texture.
  • These are great served at a brunch or party. Stack the strips of bacon like Lincoln Logs on a serving plate. Serve as finger food.

sugar bacon platter

Teacher Gift or Hostess Gift– You Decide

carrot pickles finished

When organizing a teacher gift, I try to follow a generic but personal policy. The carrot pickles with cilantro are a little bit of a risk and break this rule. I visited Sewing Sister last weekend, and she served some carrot pickles with grilled hamburgers for dinner. The pickles were surprisingly delicious, easy to make in large batches, and they looked really pretty in the jars. The risky part, however, is that it is a pretty specific food type– not very generic. I teach at the school my son attends and know my son’s teachers fairly well. I was pretty sure everyone would eat them (or at least try them).

If you don’t know your child’s teachers at all but want to send a small appreciation gift for the end of the year, I think the Insulated Drinking Cup with gift card or an Ice Cream Sundae Kit works better. If you know your teachers like trying new restaurants or enjoy good food, I would give this gift a try, especially if you need to make a large quantity. I needed about 15 teacher gifts.

I will also be bringing an extra jar to a friend’s house this weekend as a hostess gift.

carrot pickle jar samples

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb. carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • 8 oz. shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 c. distilled white vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1/2 t. celery seeds
  • 2 t. whole black peppercorns

carrot pickles bias cut

Directions

  • Cut the carrots into sticks that match the height of the jars you are using or slice using a bias cut (this is the diagonal, oval shaped cut).
  • Combine the carrots, shallots, and dill in a glass container with a lid.
  • In saucepan, combine 1 c. water, 1 c. vinegar, garlic, salt, sugar, celery seeds, and peppercorns. Heat until it simmers.
  • Pour the heated vinegar mixture over the veggies, cover loosely, and let cool to room temperature.
  • Tighten lid when cooled and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  • Can be kept in the refrigerator ~2 weeks.

carrot pickles assembling

NOTES

  • I used a 5-lb bag of carrots, 5 shallots, and 2 bunches of cilantro to fill 17-20 jars. I used a mix of tall and wide mouth half pint jars. I needed 4 batches of the vinegar mixture. 
  • I tied a label to each jar with raffia ribbon explaining the contents and wishing the teachers a happy summer from our family. Click here for the Carrot Pickles with Cilantro Labels.
  • The recipe is fairly forgiving, so you can double, triple, etc. pretty easily.
  • The cilantro can be replaced with dill.
  • The original recipe came from Simple Fresh Southern by the Lee Brothers. They have a whole section of pickle recipes. Sewing Sister also recommends the radish pickles and the watermelon pickles.

carrot pickles with labelsWhat homemade recipes have you given as teacher or hostess gifts that work well? Do you think this gift is a hit or miss? I will admit that I am giving Miss Priss’ teachers (who I do not know as well) the insulated cup gift!

Hot Vidalia Onion Dip

hot vidalia onion dip

It’s a sad day on my friendly little street. One of our neighbors (and primary organizers of the neighborhood potlucks) is moving. Last night we had a casual farewell party for our dear friends. Even though they will not be moving far away, our street and neighborhood gatherings will not be the same.

In honor of this special event, I needed a dip untasted by the group. I pulled out a recipe for a Hot Vidalia Onion dip that I have not made in years. Man, is this stuff good. It falls into the “face food” category meaning you want to stick your face into it to eat. The dip lasted about 17 minutes (after picture below).

Ingredients

  • 3 c. finely chopped Vidalia onions (the Vidalia part is important)
  • 2 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 c. grated Swiss cheese (I combine 1 1/2 c. baby Swiss and 1/2 c. Gruyere)
  • 2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce (or to taste)
  • 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • paprika to taste
  • Wheat Thins

hot vidalia onion dip bite

Directions

  • In a medium bowl, mix chopped onions, mayonnaise, Swiss cheese, and Tabasco.
  • Spread mixture in a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.
  • Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over mixture and sprinkle with paprika.
  • Bake ~30 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden and bubbly.
  • Serve with Wheat Thins.

hot vidalia onion dip after

Run for the Roses

derby mint julep glasses

The first Saturday in May is the Kentucky Derby (May 4 this year). TheRoomDad is from Louisville, and the Derby is near and dear to his heart. Since meeting TheRoomDad many years ago, we always celebrate Derby either in Louisville at Churchill Downs or at our house. Throwing a Kentucky Derby party is so fun. It gives the ladies an excuse to wear a big hat; it demands cocktails and good party food, and there is a party game built right in– betting!

derby party invitation

The Invitation

  • There are great Derby invitations available. I found my invitation at FineStationery.com. Indicate on the invitation if bets will be accepted, if hats are encouraged (I missed this key detail on my invite!), and if juleps will be served.
  • I am inserting a public service announcement here. My invitation says RSVP. That means ALL invited guests are supposed to let me know if they are coming or not. It is not a suggestion. If I put RSVP on the invitation, I want to hear from you. Because of the way I set up the betting pool, I needed names of all of my party guests ahead of time. Time and effort go into throwing a party, and it is a common courtesy to let the host know if you will/will not attend if it states RSVP on the invitation.

derby hats

The Hats

  • I love big hats. It is hard to pull off a hat, but anything goes for Derby. There is a store in Louisville that will design a hat for you via e-mail. My mother-in-law gave me a gift certificate to design a hat at Dee’s Crafts a few years back. It was the best Christmas gift I received that year. 

The Bets

  • I found this program called Racehorse by Nags Head Software. The current price is about $50. Once you buy the program, you can update every year for about $15. It figures out odds and payouts based on the money you collect at your party. I have not used the software in a few years. At the time I used it, the program was a little hinky. I e-mailed the contact, and they were very helpful. You can download the horses the morning of the race, and the program will pull the horse names into your betting pool. The program allows you to place complicated bets like Trifectas. I stuck with win, place, or show at our party.
  • It is helpful to print a list of horses and jockeys to share with party guests. Many of our guests actually came prepared with their horses selected.

mint julep

The Juleps

  • My in-laws give us a set of 2 or 4 commemorative julep glasses every year. My grandparents attended the Derby in the late 60s and early 70s, and my grandmother gave me her julep glass collection. Between the two, we own about 100 mint julep glasses. I served all of our cocktails at the party in the julep glass. I have seen the official Churchill Down Julep Glasses online and at party stores if you want to go all out.
  • I use a pretty traditional mint julep recipe. A true julep is bourbon, mint, crushed ice, and not much else. These drinks are not for the weak. Click Mint Juleps and Sausage Won Ton Tartlets for all of the recipes.

sausage tartlets

The Food

  • Aside from a handful of my favorite dips, I also served Sausage Won Ton Tartlets. The filling is stuffed into a crispy won ton wrapper cup. There are many delicious fillings you can use in the won ton cups. I used a sausage, ranch dressing, red bell pepper combination. Click Mint Juleps and Sausage Won Ton Tartlets for all of the recipes.

Anyone else planning a fun spring party? I am itching to host something new.