Three Compound Butters – One Sweet, Two Savory

I love the ease and convenience of compound butters. Honey butter is probably the first one I ever had, and I love the way it melts into warm bread or rolls.

When I went to college at Rutgers University, I sometimes went to a restaurant that served steaks with savory compound butter. A round of herby butter would be placed on top of the hot meat just before serving, and by the time it came to the table the melted butter oozed over the sides onto the plate. That was over 30 years ago, and I still remember how delicious it was!

I mixed up three compound butters: Honey Butter; Lemon Garlic Parsley Butter; and Ginger Parsley Sesame Butter.

Sweet Honey Butter is wonderful on rolls, bread, toast, and sweet potatoes.

Lemon Garlic Parsley Butter is tasty on pasta, and makes a fast dinner special with no more effort than putting a dab or two of this compound butter on hot pasta, or spread on a baguette to make garlic bread.

Ginger Parsley Sesame Butter is one I made to put on grilled salmon. We grill salmon wrapped in foil, and I thought this would be a terrific alternative to the usual olive oil and sesame seeds we usually season the salmon with. Put some of the compound butter on the fish, wrap to seal, and grill or cook as usual. The butter will melt over the fish, and the ginger, parsley, and sesame seeds will coat the top and sides.

Compound Butter is as easy as mixing tasty ingredients into room temperature butter. I add a pinch of salt to my unsalted butter, even to sweet honey butter.

Honey Butter (Bottom – Photo)

3 T unsalted butter, room temperature

1 T honey, or to taste

Pinch of salt

Lemon Garlic Parsley Butter (Center – Photo)

3 T unsalted butter, room temperature

Zest of one lemon

1 t chopped garlic, (or a pea-sized squeeze of Gourmet Garden Chunky Garlic)

1 t chopped parsley

Pinch of salt

Ginger Parsley Sesame Butter (Top – Photo)

3 T unsalted butter, room temperature

1 t grated ginger

1 t chopped parsley

1 T sesame seeds

Pinch of salt

For each compound butter: Combine ingredients, roll in wax paper or put into a ramekin, wrap with plastic wrap, and freeze or chill in refrigerator.

Enjoy!

 

Memorial Day Dessert: Red, White, and Blueberry!

Today we celebrate Memorial Day.

It’s a day to remember the service and sacrifice of those who joined the military to fight for our right to the many freedoms we so often take for granted. I thank those family and friends who served, and those whose names I will never know.

Memorial Day traditionally kicks off the start of summer. There is always a place for a fast dessert that incorporates patriotic colors, but is easily made with other seasonal flavors and ingredients.

Red, White, and Blueberry Parfait

Blueberries

Strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 3.4 oz box Vanilla instant pudding mix

2 C Milk, any variety you like (I used fat-free)

1 C Frozen whipped topping (I used So Delicious dairy-free)

1 t vanilla extract

Combine pudding mix and milk in a bowl; whisk together for 2 minutes. Let set up for 5 minutes. Mix in frozen whipped topping, using whisk to break up lumps.

Spoon pudding mix into a clear container (I used a short glass). Spoon blueberries around the sides, and layer in more pudding mix. Spoon strawberries around the sides, and top with another layer of pudding. Top with three blueberries.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole

Sunday was my birthday. Fun Fact: Every few years it falls on Mother’s Day. My next-youngest sister and I are 13 months apart, but our birthdays are five weeks apart. The years when my birthday falls on Mother’s Day, her birthday falls on Father’s Day.

My mother gave me this sweet card. I love the sparkly koala bear in his fancy shades and festive headgear 🙂

We celebrated my youngest niece’s college graduation in Miami on Friday, then drove to Jacksonville Saturday to meet the newest member of our family: my youngest sister’s new granddaughter. Family weekend all around!

Mother’s Day was a wonderful celebration with four generations of our family. My nieces and nephew took care of everything, and my oldest niece made today’s recipe.

We started with coffee and mimosas, with all the fixings on two tables.

Brunch followed, with a crustless quiche, mixed berries, watermelon chunks, bacon, and bagels with a variety of cream cheese spreads to choose from. The feast included this delightful Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole.

Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole

2 packages (17.5 oz) cinnamon rolls, separated and each roll cut into quarters

2 T butter, melted

4 large eggs

1/2 C milk

1 t cinnamon

1T vanilla sugar

1 t vanilla extract

Maple syrup

Packaged icing cups for cinnamon rolls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour melted butter into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish to cover the bottom of the dish and brush it up the sides. Distribute cut cinnamon rolls evenly in baking dish. Combine eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla sugar, and vanilla extract, mixing well. Pour over cinnamon rolls.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until center is set and top is golden brown.

Put reserved icing from both packages into a small bowl; add maple syrup to thin into a sauce to pour over casserole after it comes out of oven.

Serve while hot, or at room temperature.

Fresh fruit makes a delicious side, as does crisp bacon. We had a Mother’s Day and birthday feast, and celebrated being together for two special occasions rolled into one!

Happy Homicides 5: The Purr-fect Crime is available for only $.99 for a limited time.

Vanilla Bean Gelato with Cognac Macerated Raspberries

Did I have you at Gelato, or was it Cognac Macerated Raspberries?

Sometimes I want a tasty addition to my gelato (crazy, I know). Sometimes you need to whip up a fabulous dessert on short notice. It’s easy to make with a few simple ingredients.

My husband took advantage of a buy one/get one sale on gelato. Is it any wonder that I love him? I decided to take advantage of our gelato abundance and made a topping to bump up the decadence.

 Macerating and marinating are different terms for the same cooking principle: adding flavor to fruit or meat with liquids. You can add sugar to the macerating liquid if fruit isn’t sweet enough, but if you’re using fresh in-season fruit you probably won’t need to. Adding sugar makes the juice thick and syrupy; if you don’t add sugar, the juice will be thinner but still tasty.

You can make an even faster version by putting any fresh or frozen fruit on ice cream and adding a drizzle of the liqueur of your choice. Kahlua, Amaretto, Cognac, and Brandy all would dress up berries, banana, coconut, or chocolate – the possibilities are endless!

Vanilla Bean Gelato with Cognac Macerated Raspberries

1 C frozen raspberries, or your favorite fruit

1t sugar

1T Cognac

1 pint Vanilla Bean Gelato, or your favorite flavor

Combine first three ingredients in a small bowl, toss to coat, and stir every 15-20 minutes (if you have that much time). As the berries or other fruit thaws, their juices mix with the sugar and Cognac to make a delicious sauce.

After dinner, spoon saucy berries over scoops of gelato.

Serve with a sprig of mint or grated chocolate.

I just returned from Malice Domestic 29, and had a fabulous time seeing old friends and meeting new ones!

Happy Homicides 5: The Purr-fect Crime is available for presale now and will be $.99 for a limited time. It will be released May 12 in time for Mother’s Day. In “Dying for Sweet Tea” BevAnne makes Puff Pancake with Sliced Strawberries. The recipe for both are in the bonus pdf.

Flash Fiction Mash Up: The Special Occasion Cake

Today’s post is based on a challenge from The Smarter Artist-Pity Par-tay Flash Fiction Contest to mash up two ideas, one each from two columns. My mash up ideas: Column A – the best chocolate cake ever; Column B – revenge plot.

“The Special Occasion Cake”

By Linda Gordon Hengerer

Betsy Devlin hummed as she measured ingredients for the best chocolate cake ever. Warm sunshine and a light breeze came through the open window, fluttering the curtains over the kitchen sink.

The scent of warmed and fragrant herbs mingled with the smell of chocolate melting in a double boiler. Betsy sifted together flour and salt before she added the rest of the dry ingredients. Butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla were already beaten in a bowl, ready for her to finish mixing the batter.

This used to be Betsy’s favorite cake to make for special occasions. She couldn’t count the number of times she’d made it and didn’t want to remember. She wanted to mend fences with her former best friend before she moved away from the neighborhood.

One year had passed since her husband Howard’s death. Betsy was lucky her real estate agent was able to short-sell the house. It was the home they had shared during his affair with Betsy’s best friend, Ronnie. Betsy needed a clean break from the town where they had built a life, had ups and downs, heartache and heartbreak.

Performing mindless tasks like greasing and flouring the cake pans eased her tight throat. She had made this cake to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. The last time she baked it was the night before Howard…

After dabbing her moist eyes with a tissue, she poured batter into the pans and placed them in the oven. Ronnie would be here in a few hours, and Betsy needed to finish preparing the house for her visit.

~*~

A tentative knock alerted Betsy to Ronnie’s arrival. Placing the dish towel she’d been drying dishes with on the rack, Betsy hurried to the front door and opened it.

Flowers wrapped in tissue were clutched in Ronnie’s hand and rustled as she thrust them at Betsy. The tissue paper wrapped around the stems was crushed and damp, and it cheered Betsy that Ronnie was also nervous.

“Ronnie, this was so thoughtful of you,” Betsy said. “Please come in.”

Heavy scent trailed after Ronnie as she brushed past Betsy. The smell brought up a memory Betsy had tried to banish, of fragrance she’d smelled clinging to her pillowcases and caught in damp and wrinkled sheets.

A rose thorn pierced Betsy’s thumb when she clenched the flowers. She licked the bead of blood, tasting the coppery tang and remembering why she had asked Ronnie to visit.

“I’ll put these in some water.” Betsy led the way into the kitchen, and Ronnie leaned against the counter while Betsy took a vase out of a cabinet under the sink. They were quiet while Betsy dealt with the flowers.

After laying them on the counter, she ran the tap until the water was warm and filled the vase. Scissors were within easy reach and she used them to open the tissue paper, cut the rubber band corralling the stems, and open the packet of floral preservative.

The white powdered preservative dropped to the bottom of the vase as she poured it in, stirring to dissolve it. Satisfied that the solution was ready, she made quick work of cutting the stems and stripping off leaves that would end up below the waterline.

Betsy tucked baby’s breath and asparagus fern in the gaps between white carnations, pink tulips and yellow roses, and she stepped back to look at the finished arrangement.

She bit her lip to keep from throwing the vase at Ronnie’s head, mentally shaking her head at the gall of the woman to taunt her with that combination of flowers.

Remembrance.

Caring.

Friendship.

Friends who felt that way didn’t sleep with their friend’s husbands. Betsy got a grip on her emotions. She needed to forgive in order to move on. Her therapist said so.

Betsy dug her fingernails into her palms. She could get through this. Taking the vase, she set it on the table and gestured for Ronnie to sit down.

The table was already set with plates, napkins, and silverware. Steam rose up from coffee in delicate china cups, wafting up through the flowers. A clear glass dome protected the cake sitting on a green milk glass pedestal. Chocolate frosting cupped sparkly crystals in artful swirls.

The two former friends sat stiffly across from each other, separated by more than the table. Ronnie licked her lips and said, “Is this your special chocolate cake? It’s been so long since I’ve had it.” She looked down at her folded hands for a moment. “I’m sorry, Betsy. I don’t know what got into me.”

Betsy started to accept Ronnie’s apology. A smile quirked her lips and Betsy knew Ronnie was lying. That quirk was her tell. Betsy could have said Howard got into her, but decided that wouldn’t help her forgive Ronnie. She nodded, but didn’t speak.

Betsy was glad she had planned their get-together. She’d be able to move, and move on, knowing she had done what was necessary for her own well-being.

Taking the dome off the pedestal, she lifted the knife. “Cake?”

Ronnie nodded, and Betsy cut a generous slice for Ronnie and placed it on her plate. Cutting a thinner piece for herself, she bent her head towards Ronnie. “Bon appétit.”

They talked about friends, the weather, anything but their husbands. Bringing up the men would mean confronting Ronnie’s affair with Howard or Dave’s shoddy treatment of his former partner. By unspoken agreement they kept to neutral topics. Ronnie ate every bit of cake, scraping the plate with her fork to get every bit of it, while Betsy toyed with hers and left most of it in crumbs.

Ronnie left an hour later. They hugged and air-kissed cheeks, lying that they’d see each other soon.

~*~

The telephone rang while Betsy was watching her favorite old movie, Arsenic and Old Lace. She glanced at the clock and wondered who was calling after nine o’clock. Her heart beat faster, anticipating bad news.

“It’s Dave.” Tears flooded his voice. Betsy looked at the caller id, confirming it was Ronnie’s husband. He didn’t sound like himself, although Betsy thought anything could have happened in the past year to make Dave sound different.

“What’s wrong?” Betsy asked.

“Ronnie’s gone,” he said.

“Gone where?” Dread filled Betsy’s voice. Had Ronnie left Dave?

The phone dropped, and after some fumbling a different man spoke. “Ms. Devlin, this is Detective O’Neil. I’m sorry to tell you Ronnie’s dead. We understand she visited you today, and we wanted to know if you noticed anything unusual.”

Betsy’s hand flew up to cover her mouth. Dead? Ronnie was dead. She felt lighter, felt the weight of the past year’s emotion lifting.

“No, nothing unusual.” Betsy pulled a tissue from the box nearby and dabbed at teary eyes. “We had a falling out last year and just got together today for the first time since then to make up. She was just the way I remembered her.”

“I’ll send someone over tomorrow to get a statement. It’s just a formality, since it appears to be a heart attack. Will you be home?” the detective asked.

“Yes, I’ll be here.” Betsy wrapped her hand around the tissue. “I’m moving next week. I’ll be packing all day.”

~*~

Betsy felt a pang as she walked up to the front door, thinking about the past year and all that had happened since the last time she was here.

She had forgiven Ronnie and Howard for their affair when she threw dirt into Ronnie’s grave. With Ronnie gone, all that was left to do before she moved was to mend fences with Dave.

Deep breaths calmed her, centered her. She thought forgiving Dave for tossing Howard out of the business they started after college would be easier than this. Oh, well, she would make the effort and see what happened.

The welcome mat was worn in the center, reading We   me. We to me. That was her life now, once part of We and now just me. Time wasn’t helping, but maybe taking matters into her own hands would.

The doorbell was cunningly concealed within curlicues of wrought iron ivy. She pressed the button and listened to the melody summon Dave.

He answered the door. “Betsy. Thank you for coming.” Noise from people inside greeted Betsy with more enthusiasm than Dave’s husky baritone had.

She said, “I’m sorry for your loss. I remember how much you liked my chocolate cake and I made it especially for you.” Betsy held out the plate with a single piece of cake covered in plastic wrap.

“Would you like some?”

Dave reached out to take it, and Betsy’s fingers tightened. Could she forgive him?

He tugged.

She let him take the cake.

 

–The End–

 

 

 

 

Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

Ever since I discovered puff pastry, I have loved its ease and versatility. I use it for cinnamon rolls instead of a heavier yeast dough, and for making a savory dinner dish like this one. I use mix mustard and fig jam together for a sweet/tangy accompaniment to the ham and cheese, and it cuts the richness of the puff pastry.

The hardest part is planning ahead and taking the puff pastry out of the freezer the night before I make it; I prefer to thaw it in the refrigerator, but have done it on the counter in a pinch.

My husband likes this also, and I mix it up sometimes by using only one sheet and baking it open-faced. While puff pastry isn’t in any sense a “diet” food, using one sheet instead of two cuts the calories.

Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

1 package puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed

6 slices ham

4 slices cheese (I use Swiss, but use what you like)

2 T mustard (I’ve used Dijon, a grainy mustard, or a mix of the two)

2 T fig jam

1 egg, beaten

1 T water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unfold one sheet of puff pastry on a flour-lined board. Roll it out to a smooth rectangle. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.

Mix the mustard and fig jam together; spread over the puff pastry, leaving a 1/2″ wide border all around. Place the ham evenly over the mustard/fig spread. Lay the cheese over the ham.

Roll out the second sheet, if using it. Moisten the 1/2″ border with water, and carefully place the puff pastry top over the layered ham and cheese. Use a fork to seal the edges. With a small sharp knife, cut slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Make an egg wash with the water and beaten egg, and brush over the top of the puff pastry.

Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is puffed and golden.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. This makes a tasty dinner or delicious appetizers if cut into smaller portions.

I’ll be at Malice Domestic April 27-30, in Bethesda, MD. Hope to see you there!

Glazed Orange-Vanilla Scones

I served a Cream Tea at my book signing two weeks ago. In my last post on March 21, I shared the recipes for Lemon Curd, Vanilla Sugar, and Clotted Cream.

Today I’m sharing the recipe for Glazed Orange-Vanilla Scones, which I served with Lemon Curd and Clotted Cream (I used the Vanilla Sugar in two recipes). I’ll be making scones again, now that I know how easy they are.

Glazed Orange-Vanilla Scones

Makes 12 scones or 36-48 smaller scones

2 1/4 C all-purpose flour

1 T baking powder

1 t Kosher salt (if using table salt, decrease by half to 1/2 t)

6 T vanilla sugar

2 T orange zest

6 T butter (cubed, then frozen)

3/4 C heavy cream

2 t vanilla extract

Glaze:

1 T heavy cream

1 T vanilla sugar

1 t orange zest

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine vanilla sugar and orange zest. Mix vanilla sugar/orange zest into flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut butter into dry ingredients until small and evenly sized (similar to pea). Add cream and vanilla extract, folding to incorporate. Knead in bowl to bring everything together, adding cream as needed if it’s too dry.

Divide dough in half, shape into a round disc about 3/4″ thick, and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine Glaze ingredients together, and set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut each disc into 6 pizza-shaped pieces. Place at least 1″ apart on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with glaze. I cut mine into smaller triangles and ended up with 36 scones.

Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Serve at room temperature.

I’ll be at Malice Domestic at the end of April. Stop by and say Hi!

Lemon Curd with Vanilla Sugar and Clotted Cream

I served a Cream Tea at my book signing at the Vero Beach Book Center on March 19, and made Lemon Curd with Vanilla Sugar, Orange-Vanilla Scones, Clotted Curd, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and hot and iced tea.

Not everyone is as obsessed with Vanilla Sugar as I am, but I love it and take any opportunity to bump up the flavor of anything I make by using it. It’s as easy as putting used vanilla bean pods in sugar and letting the sugar absorb the flavor, or cutting open the vanilla bean pods, scraping the seeds out and combining them with sugar, and adding the empty pods in the mixture.

Lemon curd is expected at tea, and is easy to make. A few staple ingredients, a little time, and tangy golden lemon curd is at hand. I served it with Orange-Vanilla Scones at the Cream Tea, and had it with strawberries and shortcake sponges for dessert later in the week. It’s possible I ate the curd and cream off the serving spoons to minimize the clean-up 🙂

Real Devonshire Cream, aka Double Cream or Clotted Cream, is available to me locally at Fresh Market in a small jar for a lot of money. I found a recipe online that was fast and easy. I put the metal bowl and whisk attachment for my KitchenAid mixer in the freezer overnight. (Cream whips faster with cold beaters and bowl.) For each cup of heavy whipping cream that I used, I added a tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar to the cream and whipped it to stiff peaks. Once the stiff peaks formed, I added 1/3 cup of sour cream for each cup of cream I started with, and gently folded it into the whipped cream to avoid deflating the mixture. The sour cream and confectioner’s sugar help stabilize the whipped cream, and I stored it in a lidded container. It won’t last a long time, but I anticipate it lasting for at least two days.

I saw this beautiful blue-and-white footed Spode bowl, with a gorgeous scalloped top edge, and bought it for my collection of blue-and-white bowls. I thought the gold of the lemon curd would look as delicious in it as it does.

Lemon Curd

Makes 3 cups

3 lemons, rind removed with a large vegetable peeler (taking just the colored rind, not the bitter white pith)

1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar (instructions above)

1/4 lb unsalted butter at room temperature (1 stick of a pound package)

4 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup lemon juice (my lemons were juicy, and the three I zested had all the juice I needed; you might need another lemon to get as much juice)

1/8 teaspoon iodized table salt (1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt)

Put the zest in a food processor with the vanilla sugar. Using the steel blade, pulse/process until the zest is finely minced and combined with the sugar.

Cream the butter. Add the sugar/lemon mixture and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next. Add the juice and salt; mix until combined.

Place the mixture in a medium saucepan. The mixture will look curdled at this point. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (when bubbles start to form around the edges, just below a simmer). As the mixture heats, it will come together and stop looking curdled. It is thick enough when you can drag a line through the curd on the back of a spoon and it doesn’t close up.

Remove from heat, strain, and let cool. I put it in quilted Mason jars, and let them cool on a wire rack before I put the tops and rings on. I wanted to make sure the curd was cool enough to go in the refrigerator without breaking the glass, but you can put it in sooner if using a plastic container.

Serve with scones or fruit. It’s also a tasty spread on toast or English muffins.

Nana’s Teapot

I’ve been sharing recipes and will again. Today I’m sharing my grandmother’s teapot.

Dorothy H. Richardson died January 3, 2017. We called her Nana. She was born in 1914, and Thursday would have been her 103rd birthday. Longevity runs through the maternal line; her mother – my great-grandmother, called Grammie by my generation – died several weeks before she turned 102. They had the usual mother-daughter tensions, and I sometimes thought Nana wanted to live longer than Grammie just to say she had.

She was an avid reader as long as I can remember, and the first Nora Roberts book I read was one of her earliest category romances for Silhouette, borrowed from my grandmother during a visit to my grandparents’ home.

Nana had a way of doing things throughout her life that were givens. Fresh flowers on the table was one of them. My husband made a big impression on her when he met her for the first time, using the best flowers from my aunt’s Christmas arrangement and mixing them with new flowers from the florist to create the centerpiece for dinner. She was struck by several things, not least of which was his ability and willingness to do this.

Age and illness had taken their toll on Nana. She’d been living in an assisted living facility for the past several years after leaving Hospice care. At the time, she and her doctor thought she was close to the end. She entered Hospice, went off all her meds, and got better. The decision to leave was mutual: Hospice had a policy that precluded extended stays, and Nana was getting depressed seeing the friends she made while she lived there dying.

When she turned 100, we surprised her at lunch on her birthday. Both of her children, all five of her grandchildren, and a couple of her great-grandchildren were there, and she Face-Timed with a great-grandchild and her only (at the time) great-great-grandchild. She wasn’t up for a long visit and went back to her room after a short time, overwhelmed by the number of people celebrating what she hadn’t considered to be a big accomplishment.

Fast forward to the week before Christmas 2016. She decided she would leave on her own terms, and made the decision to stop eating. My mother was scheduled to go to New Hampshire January 4, but her brother called the week before to say she needed to come sooner. Mom flew up to NH from the family gathered for the holiday in Jacksonville, Florida. She visited with Nana for a couple of days before the morphine that eased her pain ended conversation. Nana died a short time later.

She liked her tea, and her teapot is below. My mother brought it back from New Hampshire to St. Louis, and gave it to me when I was in St. Louis two weeks ago. Not wanting it to break if I carried it on the airplane, I opted to have FedEx deliver it.

I haven’t used it yet – I know she’s gone, but I feel like the first time I use it will reinforce her absence. For now, I have it on the counter as a reminder of my proper grandmother who sent thank you notes, wore scarves around her neck almost daily, and loved her tea.

Family Favorite: Cream Cheese and Olives

Getting together with friends and family is always fun (okay, sometimes it’s more fraught than fun, but you know what I mean). Over the years I have accumulated recipes that have become favorites, and when we have them we share the memories of past times.

One of these dishes is Cream Cheese and Olives. When we grew up in New Jersey, we would drive to Maine during the summer to spend time with my great-grandparents. My mother would make Cream Cheese and Olive sandwiches during the drive. Now I make it to spread on crackers or to put on toasted English muffins.

The first time I made this after I met my husband, he was dubious about tasting it. He liked it, and now knows to expect it when we’re going to a party or if family is coming over.

This couldn’t be easier to make. I use an 8 oz package of 1/3 less fat cream cheese and let it soften at room temperature for about an hour. I use pimento-stuffed olives and chop them until they’re small enough to blend easily, but still chunky enough to let you know what’s been mixed with the cream cheese. I also add a teaspoon or two of olive juice to ramp up the olive flavor and make the cream cheese looser and easier to mix and spread.

I cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight to let the flavors meld. To serve, I put it into a pretty serving dish and use a seasonal spreader or small knife to put the cream cheese and olives on crackers (my favorite are Triscuits).

This picture is from our annual Sausage Party (we make Italian sausage every year – more about that later in the year).