If you have been limiting your use of cream cheese to the occasional bagel, you have been severely underestimating the power of this soft, flavorful cheese. Not just for breakfast anymore, cream cheese can be put out at lunch and dinner as well. You may be surprised to find how versatile it actually is.
Spread It On
The next time you want to have a sandwich, ditch the high-fat mayonnaise and heavy slices of cheese. Cream cheese makes a fabulous sandwich spread and brings a hint of mild cheese flavor. Smear cream cheese on your roll before adding lunch meat, leftover chicken or grilled fish fillets. If you're looking for a light vegetarian meal, spread some cream cheese on a pita bread or flour tortilla and layer thin sliced raw veggies, such as cucumbers and radishes, for a salad in a wrap. Mix your cream cheese with some ranch seasoning mix to create a kid-pleasing flavored cream cheese that works well with a variety of meat, vegetable and cheese sandwiches. If your child's school has banned peanut butter for allergy reasons, your child might not miss anything with a cream cheese and jelly sandwich instead.
While there are many flavored cream cheeses found on supermarket shelves now, you can easily make your own with dry salad dressing mix. Take advantage of how quickly and easily flavored cream cheese can add some zing to a plate just by putting out a little dipping cup on the side. Raw vegetables are delicious with ranch, garlic or chive cream cheeses. Apples and pears are a treat as a side dish when accompanied by a honey-nut or strawberry cream cheese. In addition to traditional blue cheese or ranch dressings, set out a dipping bowl of garden-style cream cheese for hot wings and chicken fingers. To make the cream cheese a better consistency for dipping, melt it for a few seconds in the microwave and stir.
Many foods that normally take added dairy products like cream, butter or cheese can be transformed with a dollop of cream cheese. The cream cheese can bring a mild twang of cheese flavor without being overpowering. Melt cream cheese into tomato soup for a richer, creamier texture. Add cauliflower creatively to your child's plate by mashing it with cream cheese for a tasty "mock" mashed potato. Stir a scoop of ranch-seasoned cream cheese into your hot steamed broccoli to brighten the flavor. Forget store-bought Alfredo sauce for your spaghetti; just whisk cream cheese into some melted butter with grated parmasean and a dash of salt for a fabulously fast comfort pasta that any kid who loves macaroni and cheese will love.
Start putting the cream cheese out on the dinner table instead of butter or cream. Use a low-fat cream cheese to cut calories and fat without sacrificing the flavor or texture. Top your baked potato with it, or try ranch-seasoned cream cheese on roasted vegetables. Put a dab on top of a bowl of steaming black bean soup and you may be amazed at the dimensions of flavor it adds. Mix it with chipotles or creamy chipotle dressing and smear it on a steak right off the grill. Next time you make fried chicken, whisk up cream cheese with a dash of buttermilk in a pan for a white gravy. Whip cream cheese with confectioner's sugar, and you even have a sweet frosting for a dessert topping.
- ITStock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images