Metro-East Living

These 5 recipes use cream cheese to make easy, tasty meals

This fettuccine has cream cheese in the marinara sauce and a bit in the meatballs.
This fettuccine has cream cheese in the marinara sauce and a bit in the meatballs.

Cream cheese is a refrigerator staple so versatile we spread it on bagels, use it to make cheesecake and add it to pasta sauce.

Wait. You didn’t think to put it in mac and cheese or marinara sauce? Well, go right ahead.

The mild flavor of cream cheese — made from milk and cream —offends no one’s taste buds and is the willing creamy base for all kinds of good stuff. Give it to kids on toast with jam and they’ll ask for more. Open a brick onto a plate, top with hot pepper jelly and, voila, you’ve got soft, creamy, spicy stuff to put on a cracker.

Or, try adding some leftover cream cheese to one of these:

Twice-baked or mashed potatoes. Cut the liquid you normally add a bit and add cream cheese instead, to taste. The herb cream cheese works especially well here.

Omelets. Makes them very yummy and creamy.

Cheater’s cheesecake. Rustle up “cheesecake parfait.” Mix cream cheese with yogurt, lemon zest and sugar, then crumble whatever cookies you have on top. Instant dessert.

Fastest dip ever: Warm 8 ounces softened cream cheese with a 15-ounce can of high quality chili until blended in a pot on the stove or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. Serve with corn chips.

You’ve probably got your favorite way to use cream cheese. Here are some recipes you might not have tried.

What to know

Here’s what you need to know about storing cream cheese:

  • Cream cheese should be used as soon as possible once the seal has been broken. It lasts for around a week and a half, possibly two weeks. The most obvious sign of spoilage is mold, however other pointers are a sour smell, grey or yellow tinges or a slimy, watery texture.
  • Freezing cream cheese is not recommended; you’ll end up with a crumbly product because the cheese separates during the process.

Cream Cheese Meatball Fettuccine

Meatballs tossed with fettuccine is a simple recipe with one delicious key ingredient: cream cheese. It keeps the dish moist and creamy, and even gets tossed into the sauce for a marinara that's almost more like a cream sauce. The best part is that this is a 30-minute meal from start to finish.

1 pound ground beef

4 ounces cream cheese, divided*

1 egg

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon milk

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup marinara sauce

1/2 pound fettuccine

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, 2 ounces of the cream cheese, the egg, bread crumbs, oregano, garlic, milk, salt and pepper. Mix together until well incorporated. Form the mixture into meatballs and set aside.

To a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the meatballs to the skillet, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side until browned.

Add the sauce to the skillet, and dot the remaining cream cheese into the sauce around the pan. Cover with a lid, and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

While the meatballs cook, add the fettuccine to the boiling water, and cook according to the package directions. Drain, and transfer to the skillet with the meatballs.

Gently toss the fettuccine with the meatballs and sauce until fully coated.

Plate, and garnish with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Serves 4.

*Editor’s note: Add another dollop or two of cream cheese to the sauce, if you like.

Mini Savory Cheesecakes with Pepper Jelly

8 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion

1 large egg

30 mini phyllo shells (2 packages)

1/2 cup pepper jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cream cheese, sour cream, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt and green onion. Cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides as needed to ensure the mixture is thoroughly mixed.

Add the egg and mix on medium just until combined.

Next, lay out the phyllo shells on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat (a nonstick baking mat).

Transfer the filling from the mixing bowl to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.

Pipe filling into each of the pastry shells. (If you don’t have a pastry bag or tip, carefully spoon mixture into cups.)

Bake 30 minutes, then shut the oven off and allow the cheesecakes to cool in the oven for 1 hour.

Once cooled, remove and top each with a dollop of pepper jelly. Makes 30 mini cheesecakes.

Crazy Easy Creamy Crockpot Chicken and Pasta

1 packet dry Italian dressing mix

1 can Campbells Chicken soup

1 can cream of potato soup

3 tablespoons of squeeze bottle garlic (find it in the produce aisle next to the fresh herbs)

Two frozen boneless chicken breasts

1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese

Pasta of your choice

Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray for easy cleanup.

Place frozen chicken breasts into crock. Add soups, garlic and Italian dressing mix. Stir to cover.

Set slow cooker to high for 4 hours.

A half-hour before slow cooker is set to turn off, open it up and shred the chicken (which should be fully cooked by now).

Add cream cheese to the crockpot and re-cover for final 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the lid and stir cream cheese until it has fully blended with the rest of the sauce.

Serve over pasta. Serves 4-6.

Honey Cream Cheese Biscuits

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, cold

1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, cold

1 cup buttermilk*

1/3 cup honey

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir with a whisk.

Using a pastry blender, cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the honey to the buttermilk and stir well.

Stir the buttermilk into the flour until combined. (The dough might appear to be slightly dry.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly flour surface and knead just until the dough comes together. (Handle the dough as little as possible.) Roll the dough out into an 8-inch circle.

Cut the dough using a 2-inch circle biscuit cutter and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Gently reroll any leftover dough to cut more biscuits if needed.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy them warm.

Editor’s note: No buttermilk in the fridge or don’t care to spend money to buy some? Make your own by adding 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to a 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Fill it to line with milk (not fat-free). Stir and let sit on counter at least 10 minutes. This mixture won’t get as thick and creamy as buttermilk, but it will perform its role in the batter just as well.

Chicken Puffs

This is leftover or rotisserie chicken at its best, and whether you serve these as pass-around appetizers or make them bigger and serve two on a plate as dinner appetizers, your company will think you started from scratch.

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons butter, melted and divided

1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 tablespoons diced pimentos or red bell peppers

2 (8 ounce each) cans crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add chicken, milk, garlic powder, salt, pepper, minced onion and pimientos; mix well.

Separate each package of crescent rolls into four rectangles. Spoon chicken filling into center of each rectangle, distributing it evenly. Bring ends up together, pinch closed and twist.

Brush with reserved 1 tablespoon of melted butter.

Place puffs on a greased baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serves 8.

Notes: You can use all white meat chicken, all dark, or a combination whatever you have and prefer. And feel free to add a sprinkle of your favorite spice to the mix.

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