Every home cook needs a secret weapon in her freezer. No I don’t mean an ice dagger (although I do happen to have one hanging off the ceiling of my standing freezer). I’m talking about a special recipe that can fill a variety of needs. Whether you need a snack for hungry kids, a dinner party appetizer, or a fast and simple main dish, to have one prepped ingredient that can meet those needs will save you time and energy. My friends, this cheese spread is my secret weapon.I recently served this to families at the Tukwila Kids’ Fest. I offered two choices, apple butter or cheese spread. Typically, kids under 8 went for the apple butter and older kids and adults went for the cheese. Often families would share with each other so they could try both.
The kids were so cute in their facepaint and quite a few of them were really excited to talk to me about cooking. I brought a strawberry plant and jalapeno plant from my garden to show them that you can grow food. One little 6 year old girl said “I grow food too!!!!” and I wanted to give her mother a hug.
I was surprised at how many kids had their own email addresses which they immediately wrote down when I told them how easy it was to make their own apple butter or cheese spread and that it’s something a kid can do.
Now the secret to this cheese spread, is it’s not just cheese. Every adult who tried it asked “What’s in this?”, to which Eric or I replied, “Feta cheese, cream cheese, lemon juice and pepper”. “Ahhh, the lemon juice totally makes it,” was the typical response. And it’s true!
The tangy lemon juice gives a brightness and freshness to the cheese spread, while the fresh ground pepper gives it a little spice, a flavor well summed up by the mom who shouted “It’s practically singing in my mouth!”
The best part of this spread is that it freezes really well. I almost always have some in my freezer. I make a HUGE batch and put some in a big container and some in smaller containers. When I’m ready to use some I thaw one of the smaller containers on defrost in the microwave (or overnight in the fridge). Once I use the small ones up I thaw the big container and divide it into single serving sizes.
You may notice several of my recipes call for these ingredients. It’s the base spread for my bruschetta recipe. It’s what I mix with sun dried tomatoes and basil for chicken roulade. I melt it with some milk to make an easy alfredo sauce for pasta (a huge hit in my kids’ cooking classes). I spread it on bread and top it with thinly sliced cucumber to make little dainty sandwiches. I also love to toast slices of french bread, rub them with a garlic clove, spread with the cheese, top with tomato slices and drizzle with olive oil.
But to keep it simple, you can just spread the cheese on bread or crackers to make an easy snack for kids or a dainty appetizer for adults. When serving it to adults I love topping it with some edible flowers like the elfin thyme blossoms I used in the photo. Yes, I’m a little obsessed with edible flowers.
Anyway, I’m putting two measurements in the recipe. The smaller is for a small batch if you want to test the recipe out. The other is for a big batch, the amount I normally make to freeze for the future. You may notice that the two recipes are not to scale (meaning I don’t use 8 times the amount of each ingredient for instance). That’s simply because the big recipe has been created around the size of the bulk cheeses I get at Sam’s Club. You don’t really have to use either recipe, just mix together cream cheese and feta and add lemon juice and pepper a little at a time, tasting as you go.
Oh, and I have to point out the lovely dishes I used in the photos. My grandparents are finally realizing that they do need to move into the nursing home, especially now that we’ve explained Grandma’s dementia symptoms to Grandpa. Last week Eric and I went down to visit them and Grandma asked me to take her crystal and glassware because she knew she wouldn’t be taking it to the nursing home. I got some beautiful pieces that are really special to me and am excited to share more of them with you.
Okay, so I’m always looking for more ideas, how would you use this cheese spread?
Lemon Cheese SpreadPrep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 0 minutes Total time: 10 minutes Yield: 2 cups – 18 cups
- 1 cup crumbled (or a 2.5lb block, crumbled)
- 3/4 cup (or a 48 oz loaf)
cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (or 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/8 tsp (or 2 TBS)
fresh ground pepper
- Mix all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Add additional pepper to taste.
- Can be kept in the fridge for up to one month or the freezer for up to two years.
Approximate cost/serving: This costs me about $1.50 for the 2 cups or $13.50 for the bulk batch. A serving is what you want it to be but it’s around 75 cents per cup of cheese spread.
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: This is meatless but does of course contain dairy. Naturally gluten free.
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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.