Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to feed about 35 four- to twelve-year old kids a light lunch or snack. And, it’ll be scheduled for two days after you return from a trip. That’s sort of the deal we accepted when we signed up to be snack chefs for one day at Vacation Bible School. So, before reading on, what would you have made?
We definitely wanted to serve up real food, not something junky and snacky, something at least somewhat nutritious, and we knew that we’d have one day prior to serving for preparation of last-minute items. We decided on our Scratched Hummus with carrot sticks, celery sticks, and wedges of Mini Pita Breads. (The bread we made before our trip and kept in the freezer.) For a fruit side, we’d have grapes, divided into individual portions. As the main item, small sandwiches with this cheese spread. We also made three types of cookies for afters: chocolate chip, the Best Oatmeal Raisin, and Chocolate Crinkles (recipe to show up soon). Now, we could have bought the cheese spread, but it’s so easy to make at home, we just couldn’t subject those kids to a pre-packaged version.
Since we made enough for about 50 sandwiches, you’ll see a lot in our photos, but the recipe below only makes one-fourth the amount.
And, of course, we credit The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, by Matt and Ted Lee, as the original source of this recipe.
Don’t use the pre-grated cheese that comes in bags. It’s coated with what’s essentially sawdust. Really. Read the ingredients list and you’ll see cellulose, which is sawdust. That sawdust will absorb moisture, making a drier cheese spread. We choose Aleppo peppers because they’re only slightly spicy, with a nice fruity undertone. We didn’t want to scorch the tongues of the little ones, but feel free to go with something spicier. Not all mayonnaise is the same, so, when we buy it instead of making our own mayonnaise, we buy the best, which in these parts is Best Foods’ brand (same as Hellmann’s, but called Best Foods west of the Rockies).
Procedure in detail:
Mix. Simply put all the ingredients into a large bowl and start stirring. It may take a bit to get the cream cheese mixed in completely, but you can do it. After that, you’re pretty much done. You’ll note that, since we were making such a large batch, we pulsed the red peppers in a food processor (which we also used for grating the cheese), rather than dicing them by hand.
Taste and season. We like to taste-test using a small piece of bread or cracker. That way, you get a feel for how it’ll taste when you make sandwiches. After giving it a taste, add salt and pepper as needed. We found that it didn’t need any salt, as cheese is pretty salty already, and the red peppers were in a slightly salty brine.
Pack. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours or, preferably, overnight so the flavors can mingle and meld.
This is just like the stuff they sell at the store, except you know everything you put in there, meaning you could use nice high-quality ingredients. As we said above, we made this for children, so we didn’t make it very spicy; we’d definitely increase the spice level somewhat for ourselves. But, that’s what’s great about making it yourself; you can just change it up to be just the way you like it. Four stars.