Vegetable Cream Cheese
A couple of weeks ago my mom came to visit me and my husband from Jersey. She had told me before she came that she was going to bring some bagels for us, I was sure it would just be 2 that she picked up on the way to the airport from the local bagel shop. Instead, she brought a large ziplock bag filled with bagels. I wasn’t sure how much she thought we were capable of eating at once, but luckily they store well in the freezer. If you know anything about food in the NY/NJ area, then you know that it is famous for 2 things, the pizza and the bagels. Most people credit NYC water for having some magical properties that effect the pizza and bagel dough and make it something special. I don’t know what it is, but I have lived in 2 other states besides NJ and have tried pizza and bagels from both. Nothing compares. Anytime I go back home to visit my parents, there are only 2 food wishes on my MUST list, pizza and bagels. So when my mom ended up bringing way more bagels than I was expecting, I quickly sacrificed other breads that I was storing in the freezer to make room for the bagels that she brought and carried with her on the plane. I was not about to let these little gems full of memories spoil before me and my husband could enjoy them.
This past weekend me and my husband planned on enjoying a couple of the bagels for breakfast and were debating what the best way to eat them was. We concluded that we wanted to keep it simple and classic with some vegetable cream cheese. We took the jalapeño bagels out of the freezer the night before, and that morning I got started on making the fresh vegetable cream cheese just like you would get at the bagel place. There was no reason to go out and buy a prepackaged container of it when it always tastes the best when the vegetables are fresh and crunchy. Making it at home from scratch is also great because you can adjust all the components to your own palate. Whether it be seasoning, or the ratio of vegetables to cream cheese, it’s a simple recipe that can change dramatically based on your personal preference. Why settle for something pre-made?
This version is super easy to make, and is almost if not completely identical to the kind that you would find at the deli with a couple added bits for a more spicy factor that me and my husband enjoy. All you need is a red and green bell pepper, an onion, an 8oz pack of cream cheese, some pickled jalapeños if you enjoy spicier food, and salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Its super simple.
I actually chopped up more than I needed of each ingredient, I figured it was better to have more than less when i was adding it to cream cheese. What I chopped up was half the green pepper, half the red pepper, and half the onion. I ended up using only about half of each thing I chopped up with the 8oz of cream cheese, so I have adjusted the recipe card to reflect what was actually used rather than how much I prepared. I did use all the 5 slices of chopped up jalapeño. The key is to chop everything as small as you can get them while still allowing them to maintain some shape. You obviously don’t want to blend them into a pulp, or food process them so that they crush. You just want to use your knife in order to get the smallest dice you can manage. It’s okay if it’s a little big, it will just mean a bigger crunch when you are eating it =).
It’s easier to mix if you allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature, but I did not have the patience for that when I woke up in the morning, so I just took it out of the box while it was still in the foil and massaged it with my hands for a couple of minutes to allow the warmth of my hands to soften it a little. When I put it into the bowl it was still a little stiff for mixing so I smushed it around with my spoon so that when I added the vegetables and seasoning they would have an easier time incorporating.
After that it’s pretty straight forward. Just add as many of the chopped veggies as you want. I suggest adding a little less than you think you need and mixing it around first to see if it’s the ratio you want. It’s always easier to add more veggies but impossible to remove them if you add too much. It might not look like it’s incorporating at first, but if you smush it around with your spoon enough, the cream cheese will soften even more, and everything will come together nicely. After the veggies seem to be incorporating good, then add the seasoning. I add salt, pepper and cayenne pepper and then continue to mix it around until everything looks good =)
After that it’s all done! I recommend putting the finished vegetable cream cheese into the fridge for at least 30 minutes or even an hour if you have it before eating to help the cream cheese solidify a little and help the flavors all settle in nicely. Theres nothing like a freshly toasted bagel topped with cold cream cheese! My mouth is watering just talking about it! If you don’t have the time though, you can easily use it right away, the cream cheese just wont be cold. =)
The last thing you have to do is just toast your bagel and top it with your own homemade vegetable cream cheese! I can definitely say that when me and my husband were eating these bagels we savored every bite, and the vegetable cream cheese was the perfect accompaniment to them! Me and my husband usually differ in opinion regarding what is the most appropriate salt levels for food (I tend to be a little bit more heavy on the salt for myself) so when I top my own bagel with cream cheese, I sprinkle a little extra salt, pepper and cayenne on top for added flavor! =)
I hope that next time you think about buying ready-made cream cheese from the store you think about trying to make it yourself! It’s way more economical and personal and everybody in your house will appreciate the effort you made to make this from scratch! Please let me know in the comments if you have ever had bagels from NJ or NY and tasted the difference between them and other bagels from around the country!
Also let me know if you have any questions or if you give this recipe a try in the comments! I would love to hear from you! =) I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do! Be sure to subscribe so that you can be notified when I post new recipes! (link in the sidebar). Follow me on Instagram @saltyoversweet and find me on Facebook (the link is in the sidebar).
- 1 package - 8oz cream cheese
- 1/4 - red bell pepper
- 1/4 - green bell pepper
- 1/4 - medium yellow onion
- 5 slices - pickled jalapeño (you can also use 1 fresh jalapeño for even more spice
- 1/2 teaspoon - salt
- 1/2 teaspoon - pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon - cayenne pepper (optional)
- Chop up red bell pepper, green bell pepper, onion and pickled or fresh jalapeño into the smallest dice you can manage.
- If the cream cheese has not already been softened, massage cream cheese in the foil with your hands for a couple minutes to let the heat from your hands soften it a little.
- Remove cream cheese from packaging into a mixing bowl and smush around a little bit with your spoon
- Add chopped up veggies to the cream cheese. Do not add everything at once, add less than what you think you need and mix it around to see the ratio of cream cheese to vegetable, you may not use all of the veggies that you chopped up. Keep adding veggies until you reach your desired ratio.
- Once the veggies have begun to incorporate, add seasoning of salt, pepper and cayenne and continue mixing until everything is nicely combined. Taste for seasoning, you may need more salt, pepper or cayenne.
- You can enjoy it now, but it will taste better if you let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour so that the flavors can better incorporate.
- Then serve and enjoy! =)
- *This recipe should serve at least 4 people and if you don't take as much cream cheese it can even go up to 7-8 people.
- *You can use fresh jalapeños instead of pickled for a sharper spice if you want.