Pimento Cheese Month

I'm going to regret this.  It's late and I've only just started typing.  I rarely see the other side of 10pm these days and here I am, pondering pimento cheese.  

According to Garden & Gun Magazine, the blog Gurgling Cod has declared November is National Pimento Cheese Awareness Month and who am I to argue?  I saw this month as a perfect time to declare my love and I found the stars aligned on this particular topic for several reasons:
  1. It started many Thanksgivings ago: a fondness for pimento cheese that began with the Kraft Pimento Spread version.  It featured annually in our Thanksgiving dinners, starring in a condiment tray stuffed into celery sticks and sitting next to black olives.  We always had the blue cheese version as well to spice things up.
  2. Earlier this spring, on our road trip to Blackberry Farm, we stopped outside of Lexington Kentucky at The Wallace Station where I feasted on Sammi's Pimiento Cheese Burger.  I dodged bumble bees on their back porch while devouring the treat.
  3. Over the summer, during one of many business trips to San Francisco, my colleague landed us a table at his friend, Scott Youkilis' restaurant, Hog & Rocks.  It turned out the two of us went to IU together and I felt compelled to share one of his dishes since I adored it so much.  Beyond the terrific oysters, lots of pig and a finale of yummy rum, what stood out was his pimento cheese.  I recently begged him for the recipe and made my very own for the first time.  
Pimento cheese is a Southern favorite, and it is the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday in front of the TV watching football and knocking back a few O'Doul's.

This recipe calls for Mahon Reserva, which I found at Whole Foods, but you can substitute it with 1/2 lb of aged cheddar and 1/2 lb of gouda, as Scott suggested.

Pimento Cheese
Adapted from Scott Youkilis at  Hog & Rocks 

1lb Mahon Reserva cheese, grated
1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups piquillo peppers, minced
2 cups mayonnaise
1 bunch of chives, minced
freshly cracked black pepper
kosher salt to taste

If you can't find the piquillo peppers, try mixing a small jar of pimento peppers and roasted red peppers- both can be found in jars in better supermarkets.

Mix all the ingredients and season to taste.  Serve with crackers or sliced fresh bread (and an O'Doul's Amber, if you're pregnant, like me.)  Please note, beer advocate.com rated O'Doul's Amber a D+ at best, but what do those guys know??

I thought this southern appetizer spread was the perfect pre-cursor to a very Southern-themed Thanksgiving menu that my sister and I are currently preparing for.  Her husband, Andy, is smoking our turkey this year.  It's been tried and tested, so we'll be making many southern dishes to accompany the smokiness- many from Sam Beall's beautiful Blackberry Farm Cookbook.  We'll be doing our best to avoid Stove-top stuffing and too many casseroles with cream of mushroom soup.

Get ready for bacon glazed carrots with wilted Romaine, kale coleslaw with buttermilk - chive dressing, cranberry compote with dried cherries, stewed apples, sausage & cornbread stuffing.  Last but not least- a sweet potato pie.  Oh sweet Tennessee!! Here I come...at least in our hearts and our stomachs from our Thanksgiving table up here in windy Chicago.


Over the moon

I pull this polaroid out of the drawer every autumn.  It's my favorite tree in the neighborhood.  It stands right on the corner of Wolcott and Cornelia and has the most brilliant fall display of all its neighbors.

Indy and I pass it and admire it daily, watching it turn into stunning sunset oranges and finally, right before the cool winds finish it off, chill red.

This autumn, things are a little different.  My walks around the neighborhood are slower.  I'm five months pregnant.  Twenty weeks to be exact.  Martin and I are expecting our first child and we're "over the moon", as Martin would say.

Just like other expectant parents, we're excited and nervous.  I'm tired and growing.  We're getting ready for things to change.  Mostly, I'm lounging around in sweatpants with my best napping buddy:

I am excellent at napping.  I should receive some sort of trophy.  At night, when I'm supposed to be sleeping, I'm tossing and turning trying to navigate body pillows and a dog who's so confused by all the extra pillows that he's taken to sleeping by my head.

Food is a funny thing when you're pregnant, especially for someone who likes to cook and eat as much as I do.  I'm really picky and let's be honest, demanding.  If I'm hungry, I need to eat NOW.  

Like many, I crave dairy.  Milk and milkshakes to be exact.  My Oberweis delivery investment has really been paying off.  During the day, I have been known to send colleagues out on a shake run, treating anyone around me who would fetch me a chocolate/peanut butter shake in between meetings.

Breakfast, lunch and snacks are my specialty.  Dinner- not so much.  By the time 5pm rolls around, I am done.  If I'm in the mood to cook dinner, it's definitely vegetarian and most likely features greens- kale, spinach, swiss chard are all top of my list.  Two of my current faces are:

Breakfast is a whole other story- I love it.  I feel like I might even be eating two breakfasts at the moment. I normally start my day with full fat greek yogurt, some berries, a sprinkle of granola and a squirt of honey.  Full fat yogurt is such a treat.  I might grab a few bites of toast an hour or so later and definitely a generous glass of juice or a smoothie from our fridge at work.

Eggs are absolutely my friend and this scrambled dish is a combination of Bill's Scrambled Eggs and my attempt of getting greens in wherever I can.  Apparently, they don't just appeal to pregnant ladies.  My husband exclaimed that they were his favorite eggs ever when we were digging in last weekend.

Until further notice, most blog posts will be pregnancy friendly.  Sadly, there will most likely not be any cocktail inspirations or wine pairings.  I do promise that anything I have the energy to cook and share will be delicious!

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Roasted Garlic
Serves 2

4 organic, free-range eggs
1/3 cup cream
salt and pepper
a few handfuls of spinach
a head of garlic, roasted

First, start by roasting some garlic.  You will obviously not need an entire head of garlic for this, but I like to roast the entire head and then us it in other dishes.  You can take the head of garlic and cut it through the middle.  Preheat the oven to about 375F and drizzle a little olive oil on the garlic.  Roast it until its golden, about 20 or 30 minutes.  You'll be able to pop each piece of garlic out of it's skin and it will crush easily under a fork or your finger.  At this point, the garlic is so sweet and delicious, you can add it to a variety of dishes (chicken, roasted vegetables of any kind) without any overkill.  

Boil a pan of salted water and toss your spinach in, blanching it for a few seconds and draining quickly.  Put the drained spinach on a chopping board with your garlic and chop it roughly.  Add a little salt and pepper to the pile and get on with your eggs.

In a bowl, combine your eggs, the cream and salt & pepper.  Give it a couple of quick stirs with a fork, just breaking the yolks, not beating it too roughly.  Melt some butter in a pan and add your spinach and garlic.  Get it nice and hot, but only for a minute or so.  You want the garlic to stay bright green and retain it's goodness.

Pour in the eggs and scramble over low heat until just done.  Toast some english muffins and top with your eggs.