Cheese Ball Pops!

Some recipes get passed down from generation to generation, and others get passed around from friend to friend. The latter was the case with this cheese ball recipe. My friend Rosie brought a delicious blue cheese ball, encrusted in toasted pecans, to a dinner party. I loved it. I called her the next day to ask if she would share the recipe. She promptly emailed a recipe forwarded to her by her friend Trudy, whose friend Paula had forwarded it to her. Trudy’s request to Paula for the recipe went like this, “My husband cannot stop talking about your cheese ball…” It was that good.

At the dinner party, Rosie shared a story about how a cheesemonger at the grocery store scoffed at her when she mentioned she was looking for blue cheese to make a cheese ball. A cheese ball? He went on to recommend other, more high brow cheeses. He cheese-shamed her!

Perhaps you have your doubts, too?

The Original Recipe

Paula’s recipe was perfect and brief: “Combine eight ounces each of blue cheese, mozzarella, and cream cheese. Add a tablespoon of flavorful port or sherry. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, chill until firm. Toast and chop about ¾ cup of pecans and roll the cheese in the nuts to cover.”

Playing with Add-Ins

Ever since I wrote last week’s post, A Cake for All Seasons, I’ve been thinking about ways to use flavor-building add-ins like herbs, spices, and fruits to change the way foods taste. I love dates stuffed with blue cheese and nuts, so I tried adding them to this already great cheese ball for fun. I tried various nuts and herbs in the empty cavity of dates to experiment with various flavor combinations. I liked the pecans and dill.

About dates, the food, that is.

Cooks often use dates as a natural way to sweeten foods, especially desserts. Many recipes tend to call for either Medjool or Deglet Noor dates. Medjools are sold fresh and can be found in the produce section. Deglets can be found in the dried fruits aisle. Both varieties are sweet, low in fat, and high in potassium, iron, and fiber. Medjools are larger, softer, and moister than the dried dates. Deglets have a more delicate flavor, are firmer, and are a little less sweet.

Dates grow on date palm trees in warm climates. They are labor-intensive to grow, and their priciness reflects that.

Reasons to Make a Cheese Ball at Your Next Party:
-The cheeses can be blended 2-3 days ahead. The flavor improves overnight.
-The recipe can be cut in half. Or, you could make two small cheese balls and freeze one (don’t roll in nuts and herbs until ready to serve).
-It can be shaped into a ball, a log, or single-serving cheese pops.
-It may be a good way to use up stray cheeses in the refrigerator. I would make a small bite-sized sample of whatever cheeses you plan to put together to make sure you like the flavor profile.

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans, chop and then toast
10 pitted dates, chopped (only 7 if using the large, unpitted Medjools)
2 heaping tablespoons, minced dill leaves, from 8 sprigs or 1 package
8 ounces blue cheese (I tried Gorgonzola and would not recommend it)
8 ounces mozzarella
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks for easier mixing
1 tablespoon port or flavorful sherry. I used a tawny port
Serve over crackers, pretzel sticks, or ginger snaps (sweet, but delish!)

Mise en Place:

Instructions:

Chop pecans into small crumbles and toast in a 300º oven for about ten minutes. Watch closely, so they don’t burn. Set aside.

Chop dates into small pieces. Set aside.

Mince dill leaves. Set aside.

Place cheeses and port in bowl of a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Add the chopped dates and pulse 2 or 3 times more until cheese, port, and dates are combined. Do not purée!

Use a spatula to scrape the cheese onto a sheet of parchment paper. Wrap the paper around the clump of cheese and shape it into a ball. Refrigerate for an hour.

Remove cheese from the fridge and decide how you want to serve: one ball, two balls, a log, or as cheese pops. I served a dozen cheese pops and a traditional cheese ball.

Use a small cookie scoop to shape the balls and roll them in the pecan and dill mixture. Use thin pretzels for the sticks.

If desired, form the remaining cheese into a  ball and roll it in the remaining nuts and dill. I love the colors and texture!

You haven’t lived until you have spread this cheese on a ginger snap. Oh, my goodness — it could be dessert!

Thank you, Rosie, Trudy, and Paula, for sharing the original recipe! xo

Check out other party snacks and appetizers here.

If you enjoyed this post, please share and become a follower. When signing up, be sure to confirm on the follow-up letter that will be sent to your email.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Mary’s Award Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last winter, I was on a mission to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe to love. Don’t get me wrong, I love the queen of all chocolate chip cookie recipes, the one I have known by heart since I was ten, the venerable Nestle’s Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie. But I was looking for something thicker and less crunchy.

It turns out I was looking for my friend Mary’s chocolate chip cookies!

Did you know that back in the 1930s, when Toll House Inn owner Ruth Wakefield first published her famous cookie recipe, she called it Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie? Ruth meant for her cookies to be crunchy!

I tested many recipes during my search for a chewier cookie.

In the end, I couldn’t find a favorite and instead wrote a post about cookie dough scoops, Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure.  Who knew the tiny numbers on scoops described the number of scoops of dough in a one-quart container? Or, used another way, how many scoops of ice cream one could get from a one-quart container.

I may not have found the recipe I was looking for, but I did learn a nifty way to use a scoop to measure and freeze uniform cookie dough amounts.

My kids were the winners here — they went home with bags full of frozen test batches of cookie dough whenever they stopped by for a visit.

Ultimately, I realized my favorite cookie was the one my dear and funny, food-styling, recipe-developing, artistic friend, Mary Carter, sold back in the summer of 2011 at Nashville’s 12South Farmers Market.

Her best selling cookie was Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt. She submitted the recipe to Southern Living Showhouse’s  “Ultimate Southern Cookie” contest and took home first place!

I ask you, What is not to love here?

I tried making Mary’s recipe, but my cookies didn’t come out as well as hers. Last week, she came over to bake them together to see what I was doing wrong. I learned I was mixing the batter and baking the cookies for too long and using too much flour. To develop a reliable amount of flour, I weighed each cup as she added it to the batter. The cookies came out perfectly under her tutelage.

A few words on measuring flour:

When I write recipes, I envision how my boys would make them. IF they were to measure flour, they would surely stick a measuring cup into the flour, use their finger to level it off, and dump it into the batter.

So, that’s what I did. I measured out 4 cups of what turns out to be packed flour. It weighed 21 ounces.

I was taught in Home Ec to fluff up the flour first, spoon it into a dry measuring cup, and level it off. Measured that way, 4 cups of flour weighs 18 ounces (4½ ounces/cup). That’s almost an extra cup of flour I was adding to Mary’s recipe.

Pro Tips

Before we get started on the recipe, here is a list of baking tips I learned from Mary on our afternoon together.

  • Do not overmix the fat, sugar, and eggs. A soupy batter leads to pancake-like cookies. When Mary makes these cookies at home, she dumps all the ingredients at once into her favorite mixing bowl and mixes them by hand.
  • Mary uses self-rising flour when developing recipes. Cup for cup, it has the correct proportion of flour to baking powder and salt, making it easy to increase or decrease flour as she creates new recipes.
  • One level cup of self-rising flour weighs 4.50 ounces and is comprised of:
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1½ teaspoons baking powder
    ½ teaspoon salt
  • Bake cookies for less time than seems right. Mary bakes them until they just start to tan on the edges and are still quite pale in the center. She leaves them on the pan to cool completely.
  • Placing pecans on top of the cookie allows them to toast while cooking. Toasting nuts gives them extra flavor.
  • Place 3 chocolate chips on top of each cookie before baking; that’s a food-styling tip.
  • As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, Mary uses the tip of a spatula to smush the edges inward that have spread out too far. It makes the cookies rounder and taller. Here is a video of her demonstrating.

Mary’s Southern Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Yield:  24 3-inch cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large (4 ounces) eggs
3¾ cups (17 ounces) self-rising flour (I use unbleached King Arthur’s)
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I love Trader Joe’s chips)
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

Topping Ingredients:
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes or fine sea salt
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate  chips
1 cup pecans

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º.

Add butter, shortening, sugars, salt, vanilla, and eggs into a mixing bowl.

Blend together for one minute on medium-low speed. Halfway through mixing, turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add flour and mix on slow speed until flour is just incorporated into batter, about 45 seconds. Fold in chocolate.

Using a #30 (2-ounce) cookie scoop, place dough on a parchment-lined or ungreased, insulated cookie sheet.

Gently flatten the top of each cookie with the palm of your hand.

Sprinkle each cookie with sea salt flakes or fine salt, three pecans, and a few extra chocolate chips.

Bake for 14-17 minutes, or until cookie edges start to tan and the cookie center is still fairly pale. In Mary’s oven, that’s 14 minutes; in mine, it’s 17 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately use a spatula to adjust the outer edges as described in the video. I’ve noticed the cookies appear a little darker a few minutes after they get out of the oven.

Leave on baking sheet until cookie is completely cooled. Enjoy!

Some readers might remember a story I wrote about Mary and a food-styling job she brought me on, Food Styling with Mary Carter.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Take a look at THIS page for a list of tried and true recipes, especially Foolproof Make-Ahead Gravy, my Mom’s Pumpkin Pie, and my Grandmother’s (killer) Cranberry Chutney.

Related Posts
Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure
Stocking Stuffers: Tools for the Cooking Life
My Favorite Rollout Butter Cookies
How to Make Royal Icing and Decorate Cookies
Pecan Picking in Mississippi (and recipes to go with them)

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend and become a follower. When signing up, be sure to confirm the subscription on the follow-up letter sent to your email.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

TNFP’s 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Recently, I was cooking at The Nashville Food Project when I spied Catering and Events Manager, Katie Duvien, pulling sheet pans full of peanut butter cookies out of the oven.

They smelled so good, I had to taste one—just a smidge. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one breaking off smidges.

“They only have three ingredients: one egg, one cup of creamy peanut butter, and one cup of sugar,” said Katie. This easily-remembered recipe makes them perfect for scaling up in a commercial kitchen or at home.

After she recited the ingredients, I was already thinking about adding crunch by using crunchy peanut butter. I made my first batch that night in the time it took another super-easy recipe, Sheet Pan Supper: Italian Sausage, Peppers, and Potatoes, to cook in the oven.

Ingredients for One Dozen

1 egg
1 cup crunchy or creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar (either all white, or half white and half brown)

To Scale It Up:

To make 6 dozen cookies, follow this recipe: 6 large eggs, 6 cups sugar (I use ½ white and ½ brown), and 6 cups of creamy or crunchy peanut butter (one 3-pound container).

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350º

Mix eggs and sugar, add peanut butter. Use a spatula to scrape ingredients stuck along the bottom and sides of the bowl. Mix until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Add cookie dough by the spoonful (or use a #40 cookie scoop) to the baking sheet.

Use a fork to make the traditional crisscross pattern on top.

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Do not over-bake. As soon as the cookies have spread and started to turn light brown, they are ready. When making multiple batches, rotate baking sheets on the oven racks after eight minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Wrap after they cool, so they don’t dry up.

PS: My friend, Jill Meese, adds 1 tablespoon of dark cocoa powder to the ingredients and says it makes the cookies mind-bogglingly good!

PPS: Here’s a good yarn about the history of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich– The History of the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Other Darn Good Cookie Recipes:
How to Make Royal Icing and Decorate Cookies
My Favorite Rollout Butter Cookies
Mary’s Award-Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies
Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Oats, Sorghum, Ginger, and Cranberry Cookies

Other fun recipes from The Nashville Food Project:
Oven-Roasted Strawberry and Rosemary Jam

Outrageous Roasted Rosemary Cashews
 

Meet the women who inspired me to cook: About

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

If you enjoyed this post, please share and become a subscriber! Be sure to confirm the subscription on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

© 2014-2021 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Sheet Pan Supper: Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onions, and Potatoes

Last fall, my friends, Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, asked if I would develop quick and easy dinner recipes for their readers at Mason Dixon Knitting. Specifically, they wanted recipes for sheet pan suppers.

The first one I created was called Sheet Pan Supper Italiano. Here is a link.

Their introduction to the new column was generous and kind.

Knitters, we bring help. In the quest to increase time for knitting, we proudly present a new series devoted to cooking. Simple cooking. Beautiful cooking. Cooking that you can pull together faster than you can drive through the Burger Weenie. Cooking that cleverly requires a one-hour oven time so that you have a built-in hour to knit while your delicious dinner is roasting away.

Who is our guide to this life-altering way to cook? Our adored gardener, food blogger, and maker: Judy Wright.
—Kay and Ann

Ann and Kay know how to make people feel good. They do it every morning with a daily, upbeat post. It’s one of the reasons their blog/e-commerce website is so popular. You never know what they are going to write about. Take a look at this country music parody they co-wrote and starred in called Pardon Me, I Didn’t Knit That for You. They are a crack up!!

Ann and I are neighbors and have had a lot of fun cooking together at The Nashville Food Project, too!

The first recipe I wrote for their website was a spin-off of the Italian Sausage and Peppers I grew up eating. It was served over pasta at the dinner table and in an 8-inch crusty roll at cookouts and street festivals.

At the time I wrote the sheet pan version, I was on Whole30, a nutritional “reset” diet. To make the recipe Whole-30 compliant, I switched out the pasta with white and sweet potatoes.

This recipe is also a good one for feeding a crowd. I once quadrupled the ingredients and served it at Room in the Inn, a winter sheltering and hospitality program in Nashville. The men paid me the ultimate compliment when they exclaimed, “You put your foot in it!” When they saw me look a little disheartened, they laughed and said that was a good thing. Those men made my day.

Here’s how the piled high and deep ingredients looked when tossed together and spread out into four sheet pans. The key to getting the ingredients to cook evenly is to chop the potatoes into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Yield: Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes   Roasting time: 1 hour

Ingredients

3-4 sweet bell peppers (1 pound)
4-6 potatoes, a combination of sweet and white (2 pounds)
1 sweet onion (½ pound)
1 medium head of garlic (1-1½ ounces)
4 or 5 whole Italian sweet sausages (a 1¼ pound package) Do not pierce.
1 teaspoon fine salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400º.

Prep peppers: Remove pepper cores and seeds. Cut into 1 to 2-inch chunks. Add to parchment-lined sheet pan.

Prep onions: Remove the outer layers of skin. Trim off root. Slice thickly. Add to sheet pan.

Prep potatoes: Scrub potatoes. Do not peel. Cut into bite-sized chunks. Add to sheet pan.

Prep garlic. Smash the whole head with a meat mallet and remove outer layers of skin. Then smush each clove with the flat edge of a knife and peel off the loosened fine skin. Add to pan.
 

Sprinkle mixed vegetables with salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss together in the sheet pan. Add sausages and toss again. Spread ingredients uniformly. Place roasting pan in oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven and turn ingredients with a spatula, including the sausages, for even browning. Roast for 30 minutes more.

Since there are only two of us in the house, I often have leftovers to scramble up with eggs for breakfast the next morning. Yum!
 

You can find instructions on how to roast various vegetables by clicking on one of these links: eggplant, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, zucchini, butternutpatty pan, pumpkin, and spaghetti squashes.

Other Dinner Ideas:
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Marinara Sauce
A New Take on Chicken Marbella
Chicken Cacciatore
Pot Roast with Herbs and Root Vegetables
Brooks’ Pork Tenderloin with an Amazing Marinade

Apples are in season and this is my absolute favorite apple pie recipe. The crust is made of crumbled cheddar cheese, butter, and flour. It is incredible. The recipe is from my mother.  Here is a link.

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Don’t miss a recipe! Become a subscriber and have every post delivered to your Inbox.

Follow my stories about how to grow vegetables in your backyard, raise a small flock of chickens, or come up with healthy dinner ideas on Instagram and Pinterest at JudysChickens

Always check this website for the most up-to-date version of every recipe.

© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.