One day it’s brats and beers on the sweltering deck. The next you’re turning on the heat along with the tv and searching for game day snacks. (Which still could be brats and beers.) It doesn’t seem as if that would be possible, but in Colorado, it often is. We could see just such a weather change several times over the course of any September. But there’s always one metamorphic day when our whole world definitely changes from summer to fall and that’s when “the mountain” (better known to the rest of the world as Pike’s Peak) looks like Brigadoon from my front yard:Jump to Recipe
(below) We call this the first snow on mountain and wait impatiently for the clouds to clear so we can see it in its glory… (below–right)
Granted, it’s more than 14,000 feet on Pike’s Peak and we’re at 6,500, but what happens on the mountain doesn’t stay on the mountain; it changes what’s down here in Colorado Springs. The trees, already trying to turn from lack of light, begin golding up and dropping their leaves; the mornings call for sleeping later and then jackets and gloves; and the garden comes to a complete stop. Time to harvest the herbs and bring the green tomatoes in for ripening in a brown paper bag or on the southern window sill.
This cook then puts on a slow cooker full of chili to mark the transition and celebrate the end of AC…
…and searches through the fridge and cupboards for a halftime treat even though football is totally not my thing. (Let’s talk about the World Series instead.) American cooks know that even if they’re not Broncos or Patriots or Tampa Bay fans, it may be their job to come up with football food from now until…forever. Insert big sigh. Ok, at least up until and including Super Bowl Day–which is FEBRUARY 13, 2022 in case you hadn’t checked. And, oh, by the way, it’s supposed to somehow be fun eats. You wondered why the grocery store end caps are full of Tostitos and jarred salsa for all those months? Really it’s just a reason to consume boatloads of junk food.
Be that as it may, I’m game (yes, I know) to come up with a few tasty treats in the fall and even happily attempt to come up with something new once in a while (see photo at right–one of my happier attempts). At our house, something new often comes out of something old or something that needs using. The tail end of a ham steak (you don’t need a whole ham for this) and the blue cheese left after steak night came together one momentous afternoon to create my Ham and Blue Cheese Spread. Is this health food? (Salt plus salt plus fat.) Definitely not, but you won’t eat too terribly much and–hey, it’s a so-simple appetizer you’ll take to dinner at friends more than once. Everyone needs a treat and you can always serve it with high fiber whole wheat crackers or vegetables for the win. When the weather changes at your house (or even if it never does because you’re in Florida) and Sunday afternoons are spent in front of the big or small tv, try this:
Ham and Blue Cheese Spread
- 4 ounces each: blue cheese (not crumbles) and cream cheese, plus extra blue cheese for garnish
- 8 ounces ham cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon chopped red onion
- 1 large, plump garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise – or more as needed to obtain a smooth spread
- 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- ½ teaspoon each: kosher salt and fresh ground pepper plus extra pepper for garnish
- 3 shakes hot sauce or to taste
- 3 tablespoons diced red bell pepper, divided
- In a food processor or blender, place all ingredients except diced red pepper. Process, pulsing, until well-blended, but not puréed. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add 2 of the tablespoons of diced red bell pepper and stir in by hand. Turn out ham mixture into a bowl and garnish with remaining tablespoon of red bell pepper, the reserved blue cheese, and a few more grinds of black pepper. Serve with crackers, crostini, or fresh vegetables. Also makes a hearty sandwich. Store leftovers tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for 3 days.
CHANGE IT UP:
- You can use nearly any meat to make a spread, though you may need to add more fat (mayo/butter) depending on how lean your meat is. Seasonings might change accordingly. Horseradish with roast beef, anyone?
- No blue cheese? Try a sharp Cheddar or something similar.
- Butter or another soft cheese can replace mayonnaise. Another possibility is adding more cream cheese and thinning the mixture with a little milk to the consistency you choose.
REDUCING FOOD/OTHER WASTE WITH THIS RECIPE:
- Any spread like this can be frozen and thawed overnight in the fridge before eating. I have left them in the freezer for as much as 2 or 3 months, but no more. (It could be they’re fine; I just can’t vouch for it.)
- If you bought a larger ham, slice leftovers and wrap well for the freezer. You can also freeze the bone well-wrapped for a month or two until you’re ready to make ham and beans. (You can make Pumpkin-Lentil Soup, too.)
- Cream cheese–once opened– stores a week or two in the fridge, but use it up fairly quickly on toast, English muffins, etc. before it molds. Top it with pepper jelly for an old school appetizer.
- Blue cheese, despite it being full of mold, doesn’t keep terribly well or for very long. Use extra for salad toppings or to make blue cheese salad dressing. Instructions for blue cheese dressing are in my steak salad post. You can also just eat blue cheese all by its oh-so-salty lonesome if it’s your thing.
If you liked this, you might also like my:
Salmon-Cheese Spread (left)
Herbed Goat Cheese Spread (right)
Colorado Bean Dip (left)
LIFE GOES ON:
Above: Here’s a simple meal I stuck up on facebook the other day. I find creating “Dinner in a Picture” an intriguing exercise from every perspective, but maybe the graphics are the most engaging. You must get all of the necessary instructions in, still making the photo attractive and obvious –so that it looks like what it actually is — or all is lost. Definitely fun. Try it sometime; it’s not as easy as it looks. The goal is to encourage cooking without having to read a long list of ingredients or directions. After studying the photo briefly, the process is hopefully followable and mostly memorized. Cook it and see what you think. Change/add herbs or spices; throw in big chunks of onion; switch cauliflower for broccoli or large pieces of zucchini/summer squash; increase heat (crushed red pepper); skip potatoes/add more veg. Make it your own because that’s what it’s all about.
below: seen at COSTCO (I didn’t buy it. Yet.)
Below: The dogs, (Tucker–golden/Rosie–black labradoodle) waiting for my husband Dave once they hear his 1998 Toyota truck coming around the corner. It can get worse than this, too. Wouldn’t you like someone to want you to come home this badly?
Thanks for spending time in my kitchen with me; it means a lot!
Hope you’re cooking, feeling well, and enjoying your own cooler days,
P.S. Just in case you were worried about my getting enough pumpkin for the fall. Amazon came through today and friend Tony snagged 2 extra cans somewhere for me. There will be pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin martinis, and pumpkin pie!