Today I'm linking up with both Boomama and Kelly for some awesome link parties. (Is it any surprise I want to link up to food parties?) The parties, respectively, are the DipTacular and Crockpotalooza. So, without further ado...
DipTacular: Baked Cheddar Bacon Spread
(recipe & photo via Allrecipes)
- 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups sour cream
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
- Assorted crackers
In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, sour cream, onion and mayonnaise until smooth. Fold in bacon and 3 cups of cheddar cheese. Transfer to a 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve with crackers.
Verdict: Ya'll. I made this dip for an appetizer for my daughter's birthday party because it was freezing cold and it was a morning party and I figured bacon + cheese = sorta breakfast. This was THE BEST dip ever. I had multiple friends emailing me after the party for the recipe. It was scarfed down in a matter of minutes. Best. Dip. Ever.
Crockpotalooza: Red Beans & Rice
(recipe mine, photo not mine)
- 1 1-lb package dry red beans
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 5 cups water
- 1 lb smoked sausage
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 1 heaping cup of seasoning mix, enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet (I prefer Guidry's because it has tiny bits of red pepper; if you don't have seasoning mix, do 1 small chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, and 1/2 c chopped bell pepper)
- 5 tsp minced garlic
- Liberal amounts of Tony's (or your preferred creole spice mix)
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- a few dashes of Tabasco (optional)
Begin by pouring the dry beans into the crock pot. Add the chicken stock and water. Depending on how hot your slow cooker cooks, you might need to add some more water later on in the day, but this was a perfect amount in my slow cooker.
Slice sausage into small discs and brown on stove. Once the sausage is browned to your desire, remove it from pan and add the oil. Dump in the veggies and cook for a few minutes, until softened. Sprinkle Tony's liberally over the veggies once they've softened, then sprinkle the thyme. (This is a trick I learned from Pioneer Woman - add the spices to the veggies.) Next add the garlic and cook for just another minute or two; you don't want the garlic to burn. Remove from stove and add the veggies and sausage to the slow cooker. Toss in a bay leaf. Add Tabasco or hot sauce if you so prefer. Turn the slow cooker to high and go enjoy the rest of your day.
Now, here's the trick to making it real New Orleans style. After about 6-7 hours, check and make sure the beans have softened. If so, scoop out several ladlefuls of beans and broth into a bowl. Fish out any pieces of sausage and set those aside. Then using a potato masher, the back of a ladle, an immersion blender (my preference), or by pouring the bowl contents into a blender, "cream" the beans to desired thickness. Return the smushed beans to the slow cooker. Put any sausage you took out back in as well. Cook on high for an additional 1-2 hours.
What happens then is magic. The beans that were creamed thicken to make an awesome gravy. Give the pot a good final stir to make sure everything is combined, then pour a heaping ladleful of thick red beans over hot rice. Then dig in while you realize really good red beans is everything that's right with the world.
Verdict: This was delicious. I was super surprised at how good it turned out. I was also thankful it wasn't a complete disaster since I was feeding it to a room of hungry teenagers. Is it as good as Blue Runner? I'd say yes, and it was almost as easy. In fact, the only extra step with this that I don't do with Blue Runner was creaming the beans. And since I make my own chicken stock, it was quite a bit cheaper than making it with Blue Runner.
- True Louisiana folk might notice a certain pork product is missing. Yes. I find ham to be a vile form of meat; therefore I never use it. However, feel free to toss in a ham hock or a package of cubed ham if you prefer that taste. Just don't invite me to dinner if you do.
- I also used only smoked sausage. Most prefer andouille, but andouille is a little too spicy in my opinion, and it's too spicy for SC. Sum of these two points: use your own meat preferences.
- I didn't list any salt or pepper because I make my own chicken stock, and it's seasoned pretty well. Test your broth about halfway through and if it needs it, add some S&P.
- Go crazy with your spices. I like tons of Tony's but am not a fan of Tabasco-based heat. You might be the opposite. Just ease yourself into it. You can always put more in, but you can't take it out. I don't even measure my Tony's anymore because I've gotten so accustomed to eyeballing how much I need for a large pot. And it's always a lot. Yum.
- You can also increase the thyme if you like. I only did half a teaspoon because thyme is disastrous for my vitamin K levels. If you don't take blood thinners, have fun with the thyme.
- Even though the flavor balance was awesome, I think the garlic could be increased too. But I love garlic. If more garlic is wrong, then I don't want to be right. But if you don't like garlic (or if you're a vampire) leave it where it is. It's nice and subtle.
Hope ya'll enjoy! Let me know if you try either of these and like/dislike them! :)