Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

The Best Hot Spinach Dip Ever!

print recipe card posted in Appetizers and Snacks by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Deceptively simple to make, this is the best hot spinach dip you will ever eat!

Ramona Woo and my sister Marie Woolf, both of Greenville, South Carolina, have figured out the perfect balance of ingredients to make this version of spinach dip a real winner!

The only two skills you need to make this dip are cooking bacon and grating cheese.

If you need a quick review, I have a photo-tutorial on cooking bacon in the microwave and one on grating cheese as well.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • A 10-ounce box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup of mayonnaise (light or regular)
  • 1 cup of sour cream (light or regular)
  • 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 4 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces of Swiss cheese, grated
  • ½ pound of bacon (about 8 slices)

Once cooked, crumble the bacon by chopping it with a knife or just snipping it with a pair of scissors. Divide the bacon into two piles. One third will get mixed in the dip and the remaining two thirds will go on top of the dip.

(You could crumble it a bit finer if you prefer!)

Using a microwave-safe dish, defrost the spinach in the microwave.

Follow the cooking directions on the back of the box but cook it for about 1/2 of the time indicated. You only want to defrost it at this stage, not cook it through.

Squeeze out all excess water from the spinach. You could put it in a colander and press out the water with your fingers but I usually just squeeze it like a sponge.

Using a grater, grate the Monterey Jack and the Swiss cheese. (4 ounces equals about 1 cup of grated cheese.)

In a large mixing bowl, put the spinach, the cheeses, 1/3 of the bacon, 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 1 cup of sour cream, and 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream.

Mix everything together.

Spread the mixture out in a 10 inch round baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining bacon on the top.

Bake the dip in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until it’s bubbly around the edges.

Serve this fabulous dip with your favorite tortilla chips.

Thanks Marie and Ramona for sharing this recipe with us at startcooking.com!

Enjoy!

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Cranberry Pinwheels

print recipe card posted in Appetizers and Snacks, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

These cranberry pinwheels are a great hors-d’oeuvre to serve year round, but they are especially perfect for the holidays. The dried red cranberries and the green scallions make them look really festive. Plus the sweet/savory combination of the cranberries, feta cheese and green onion make them particularly tasty. They can actually be made 1 day ahead of serving them.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • 1-8 ounces carton of whipped cream cheese
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion
  • 6 ounces of dried cranberries
  • 4-10 inch flour tortillas

There are many different brands of feta cheese. Some are saltier than others. You may have to try a few different brands until you find one that suits your taste! (Feta cheese is the one that is always served on a Greek Salad. I have used it on my Cold Mediterranean Plate.)

Tortillas are a Mexican, round, flat, unleavened, bread made of either corn or flour. For this recipe be sure to buy the flour tortillas. They can be found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.

Preparation:

The green onions need to be washed. Then cut off the hairy end.

The white part has a stronger onion flavor than the green part. For this recipe I use the whole thing. Cut the green onions into thirds and line them up.

Now dice them into about 1/8 inch slices.

Put the crumbled feta cheese into a large mixing bowl.

Now add the whipped cream cheese.

And the chopped scallions.

Now all the cranberries.

Mix everything together.

Spread the mixture onto a dinner plate. Divide the mixture into four equal size piles. This way you know you have divided the filling equally and each Cranberry Roll-up will have the same amount of filling.

Using a knife spread ¼ of the mixture onto a 10 inch tortilla. If the filling is difficult to spread, dip your knife into water then try spreading the filling. (You can use the leftover flour tortillas to make Quesadillas!)

It is not necessary to spread the filling right to the very side edges. Those edges will get trimmed away later anyways in order to make perfect rounds.

Tightly roll up the tortilla.

Wrap each tortilla in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. (Or you can make them a day in advance.)

Slice off the ends about 1 inch on each side. (These are the bits that you sample!) Now cut each roll into about 10 slices. (If you cut them too thin they will fall apart.)

Arrange the slices on a serving dish and garnish (decorate) with fresh parsley or leftover green onion. Enjoy!

Source: Taste of Home

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Jalapenos Stuffed with Sausage

print recipe card posted in Appetizers and Snacks by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

HOT! HOT! HOT! Well maybe not! You can actually control the amount of heat in this recipe for Jalapeno Peppers Stuffed with Sausage in two ways:

  1. The type of sausage you choose
  2. How you clean the peppers

You need just four ingredients needed to make this recipe:

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of jalapeno peppers (about 18 small to medium)
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound of sausage

Start by softening the cream cheese. Just take it out of the refrigerator, open the wrapping, and let it sit on the counter while you cook the sausage. It will soften on its own!

I chose HOT Italian sausage to make this recipe. It ended up with quite a kick! Choosing sweet Italian sausage or pork sausage would definitely have decreased the amount of heat. Buy whatever sausage you prefer, depending on YOUR taste or that of the people invited to your party.

***

Let’s startcooking!

With a sharp knife, slice through the casing of the sausage.

Remove the skin and add the sausage to a large frying pan that has been pre-heated on medium-high heat.

The sausage needs to get broken up into bits and cooked completely.

One way to break the sausage apart is with a spatula (shown above), but it does not do a great job at breaking apart the meat as it cooks. You could try using a fork (shown below) which works a bit better…

…or a potato masher (below), which actually works the best!

Once the meat is cooked put it into a bowl lined with paper towels.

Once all the fat has drained from the cooked sausage, which will only take a minute or so, remove the paper towels and throw them away.

Add the softened cream cheese and the grated Parmesan cheese.

This needs to get totally mixed together.

If the cream cheese is not soft it will make mixing quite difficult.

It should end up looking like the photo below.

Now for the peppers!

(Please take a moment to review my photo-tutorial on Handling Hot Peppers.)

Wash the jalapenos and cut them in half with a sharp knife.

OK! We’re now ready for the second way to control the heat of your final dish – cleaning the inside of the peppers.

The outside flesh of the peppers contain a lot of flavor. Most of the “heat” is contained in the internal seeds and the membrane that they are attached to.

So, we’re going to remove the seeds and membrane with a knife …

…or a spoon or melon baler.

Even the slightest bit of that white membrane will give these Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos quite a kick!

Fill each jalapeño half with about 1 to 1 ½ Tablespoons of filling. A small pepper will require less filling.

Some of the filled peppers may tip over in the oven. To prevent this, you can “snuggle” or “nestle” them together on the baking sheet. (Be sure to use a baking sheet with sides!)

Bake them in a pre-heated 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) oven for 20 minutes.

You can see how some of the larger ones sort of toppled over. Next time, I am going to try to get smaller jalapeños and be sure to nestle them together on the baking tray so they will remain upright.

I left the top stem on some of them just for presentation purposes.

However, be warned. You don’t eat the stem! (Warn your guests.)

Enjoy!

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