Yes, we’re going to talk about cream cheese.
Cream cheese. I know, it doesn’t sound very exciting from the get go, but I’ve learned some things about cream cheese that you might enjoy hearing about. And, the result might be that you save some pennies in the process.
A couple years ago we were visiting some friends here in Haiti that really liked to entertain. For an appetizer they served cassava rounds broken up with dip. The dip was amazing. I couldn’t figure out what it was right away. Turns out it was cream cheese with grated carrot and green onions. But it was smooth. When I asked how she got it that way she laughed at me and said, “Come on Leslie, you can figure it out!” And then proceeded to make me guess how she did it. It turns out it was so simple it didn’t even blip on my radar.
SPREADABLE CREAM CHEESE
1 block of cream cheese
1. Put cream cheese in a small bowl.
2. Squish with a fork until softened a bit.
3. Add a bit of water.
5. Add more water.
7. Repeat steps 3-6 until desired consistency is reached.
Now I know I haven’t lived in North America for a while, so I could be off on this, but I seem to remember that it was cheaper to buy a block of cream cheese than it was to buy a container of spreadable cream cheese. Am I still right about that? If so, then why not buy the cheaper cream cheese, and spend about 3 minutes making your own spreadable cream cheese??
Oh, you want it flavored? Pshaw!
HERB & GARLIC CREAM CHEESE
Take previously mixed spreadable cream cheese. Add 1 tsp Herbes de Provence and 1/2 tsp of garlic powder or dried garlic. Heck, throw in some dried onion if you want! Mix and let sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving for flavors to develop.
VEGGIE CREAM CHEESE
Take previously mixed spreadable cream cheese. Add 2-3 tablespoons of grated carrot, and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped green onion. If you want add finely chopped green or red peppers for more color. Add garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Store in fridge.
FRUIT FLAVORED CREAM CHEESE
Take previously mixed spreadable cream cheese. Add 1/4 cup of chopped fresh fruit. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries (oooohhh!), mangoes… oh there are no limits. Using a hand mixed combine just until fruit is broken up and evenly distributed in cream cheese. Refrigerate and try not to eat it all in one sitting.
See! Look at all the things you can do. Think of the combinations of stuff you can try. It’s so flexible. AND, if you want to go all CRAZY, you can add more water and whip it up a little to make a delicious dip or spread for appetizers. My mouth is watering just thinking about all the options.
But wait, I’m not done yet!
One thing I’ve learned here in Haiti is to substitute. Most times it’s really hard to find what you’re looking for in order to make different foods that feel familiar. Sometimes you hit the jackpot and find random things, and buy everything in stock because you don’t know when the store will have it again. Sour cream is one of those items. When Caribbean Supermarket was open and we were going to Port more often we could find it pretty regularly. It was always a treat, but we could find it. Caribbean fell in the earthquake and now we only do a grocery run in Port about once a month. And, I have only found sour cream twice in the last six months. What’s a girl to do?
Cream cheese that’s been thinned with water and whipped up a bit can often take the place of sour cream. Bet you didn’t know that.
One thing I’ve done here is I’ve used that cream cheese with mayo and dry ranch dressing mix to make a yummy dip. It’s good on veggies, thinned out on salads… Mmmm. I usually only make a little at a time. I simply mix equal parts mayo and thinned cream cheese together, then add the ranch mix. It may need to be thinned more, and often after sitting in the fridge the dip will thicken up so you need to add a bit more water before serving. Delicious.
I hope you won’t look at a block of cream cheese the same again.