The Super Bowl is this Sunday and, well, I’m not a football fan. A red-blooded Patriot I still am, yes, but no, I don’t have a favorite football team, and I don’t care who wins or loses the game.
As a marketer and foodie, though, I am sure you could’ve guessed that I do enjoy watching the commercials and eating snacks. In the kitchen is where I can be found during any given Super Bowl with a drink in hand, pausing to watch a funny commercial now and again. Works for me.
It’s basically a prerequisite to have some kind of pretzels or chips and dip to snack on during the game (or commercials.) If you ask me, chips and salsa gets boring after a while. Guac, even if given a healthy dose of lime juice, is bound to turn brown. And while I enjoy a good queso, it, too, comes with challenges. The first challenge is keeping it warm. (A Crock-Pot can take care of that quite nicely, true.) The second challenge is that it can be drippy and messy to eat.
Pimento cheese, on the other hand, is absolutely divine, easy to make, and easy to eat. I wasn’t born or raised in the South and I never ate it as a kid. I found it a few years ago by accident when looking for something at the grocery store, and, boy, am I glad I did.
Normally, I make a cold pimento cheese spread based on the Murray’s Cheese recipe that uses sweet red Peppadew peppers, the kind that are generally found whole at olive bars. The Peppadews have a briny flavor and a satisfying snap when eaten alone or with a small bit of mozzarella cheese or goat cheese stuffed inside (my favorite and two other easy appetizers to make that are good for entertaining.) You might occasionally find green and yellow Peppadews mixed in with the red ones, or bite into one that has a subtle kick, but they are still very mild, which is where a jalapeño comes in to help. I add a diced and seeded fresh jalapeño for a little kick and use a combination of 0% Greek yogurt, light sour cream, and light mayonnaise in it for the base to bind it all together.
For the recipe I made on Christmas, though, I decided to do something different and made a baked dip with the same flavors that was met with rave reviews by my family. I used a whole, small jar of pre-chopped pimento peppers, found in the pickle and olive aisle of virtually any grocery store, along with a healthy dose of chopped pickled jalapeños.
I just tried these Mrs. Renfros brand pickled jalapeños not long ago and have come to like them very much, which is what I used in the dip. They have a nice crunch and sweetness to them that reminds me of a bread and butter pickle, but they definitely still have a nice amount of spice. Speaking earlier of queso, too, the brand also makes a decent jarred queso dip, both a mild version and a Ghost Pepper variety that is really hot… really. No joke. I mix the two together and it’s still a good level of heat.
Serve hot with crackers, celery, and other dippers. I use reduced fat or low-fat (but not fat-free) sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and cheese in virtually everything I make to cut back on calories. I don't notice a difference in taste using these vs. full-fat versions; however, you're welcome to use whatever suits your taste. Baked Pimento Cheese Dip recipe | From Anna's Kitchen (fromannaskitchen.com)
- 1 8 oz block Neufchatel low-fat cream cheese
- 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise (Suggested: Hellmans brand light mayonnaise)
- 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream (Suggested: Daisy brand light sour cream)
- 1 8 oz jar pimento peppers, drained and chopped
- 1/2 cup pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped (Suggested: Mrs. Renfros brand)
- 1 16 oz bag shredded cheddar cheese (Suggested: Sargento brand, made with 2% milk)
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 shakes Tabasco sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
Measure 1/2 cup shredded cheese, set aside for topping.
Add cream cheese to a large bowl and stir vigorously until softened, or add to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until creamy.
Add mayonnaise, sour cream, pimentos, remaining shredded cheese, Tabasco, and Worcestershire to bowl and stir or beat in (if using stand mixer). Season with salt, pepper and more tabasco to taste.
Transfer dip to an oven-safe serving bowl or container and top with additional cheese.
Bake at 350° Farenheit for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbly. You may also choose to broil on high for 3-4 minutes after cooking for an extra bubbly and crusty topping. Serve hot.