Bless Your Spoon: A listening community enjoys good music — and food

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, July 20, 2023

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

Sometimes, it’s good to pick up on novel ideas and tune in to new opportunities.

The first time I heard of house concerts and listening rooms was at a music scene in Asheville — a savvy town that lends an ear to live music and hearkens traveling musicians. A house concert is listening to music at someone’s personal home while listening rooms are usually commercial spaces such as studios. In both cases, the performing arts can be more fully enjoyed up close and personal without the usual distractions of loud patrons and noisy venues.

When I returned home, I set out to discover home concerts in our community. To my delight, I came across the “Running with Headphones House Concert Series” at the home of Jennifer and Jerry Chapman who live in the Ardmore area of Winston-Salem. The Chapmans are part of a listening room network which is the main online site for locating community house concerts.

The musician began playing at around 7 p.m., but I was every bit as attentive to the potluck that preceded the concert. Each guest brought a salty appetizer or sugary dessert to share. The event was well attended, so there was a tantalizing array of satisfying tidbits. I helped organize the serving tables, sorting the savory from the sweet. An assortment of finger foods dictated no need for silverware with chips, dips, spreads and pick-up foods served.

Testing — one, two, three — the mics and amps were ready to go and music was about to begin. Guests enjoyed their munchies and settled into chairs around the pool — lending an ear and personally connecting with amazingly talented musicians. Giving the artist their full attention, guests hung on to each note of music played.

As dusk fell and the final rays of sunlight reflected on the pool, a cacophony of insect sounds could be heard in the distance. As important as the music, the house concert had deepened the sense of community roots — bringing neighbors and friends together to listen.

Easy Pimento Cheese Spread

• 1 pound grated sharp Cheddar cheese

• ¼ cup chopped Vidalia sweet onion

• 4 ounce drained, diced pimentos

• 1 cup premium mayonnaise

In a bowl, combine grated cheese and onion. Mix well. Add pimento and enough mayonnaise to be as spreadable as desired. Mix well. Refrigerate. When ready to use, microwave 30 seconds to soften. Serve with crackers.

Black Bean Dip

• 1 chopped ripe avocado

• 2 chopped ripe tomatoes

• 1 chopped red onion

• ½ chopped red bell pepper

• ¼ cup chopped cilantro

• 1 cup drained shoe-peg corn

• 2 cans drained/rinsed black beans

• 4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

• 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

• 2 tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. cayenne pepper

In a bowl, combine avocado, tomatoes, red onion, red pepper and cilantro. Mix well. Add rinsed and drained black beans and corn. Mix well. Add fresh lime juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix well. Serve with tortilla chips. Also can serve warm on flour tortillas topped with shredded cheese.

Salmon Party Log

• 8 ounces softened cream cheese

• 2 cups cooked, flaked fresh salmon

• 3 tsp. chopped onion

• 2 tsp. horseradish

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 3 Tbsp. chopped parsley

• ½ cup chopped pecans

In a mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add salmon and onions. Mix well. Add horseradish, lemon juice, salt and parsley. Mix well. Refrigerate several hours. Roll log in chopped nuts. Serve with crackers.

White Bean Bruschetta

• 19 ounces rinsed, drained cannellini beans

• 6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

• 4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

• ¾ tsp. hot red pepper flakes

• ¾ cup chopped fresh rosemary

• 4 Tbsp. strip cut basil leaves

• 3 seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes

• 2 minced cloves garlic

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 2 sliced ½-inch French baguettes

• 6 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

In a bowl, combine white beans, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red pepper, chopped rosemary, basil leaves, tomatoes and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Spread thin layer of goat cheese on each slice of bread. Then top with bean mixture.

Hot Chicken Spread

• 8 ounces softened cream cheese

• 2 cups finely chopped chicken

• 1½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese

• ½ cup sour cream

• 2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

• 1 tsp. chicken flavored bouillon

• 2 Tbsp. toasted slivered almonds

• ¼ tsp. garlic powder

In a mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add chicken and mix well. Add 1 cup of cheddar cheese, sour cream, onion, bouillon, toasted almonds, and garlic powder. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate and top with remaining cheese. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted on top. Serve with toasted bread and peach chutney.

Fresh Peach Chutney

• 4 cups diced fresh peaches

• 1 cup seedless raisins

• 1 ½ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. cinnamon

• 1 ½ tsp. ground ginger

• ¼ tsp. ground cloves

• 1 cup water

• 1 chopped medium onion

• 1 chopped medium apple

• ½ cup thinly sliced celery

In a saucepan, combine peaches, raisins, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and water. Cook 15 minutes until mixture thickens. Stir in onion, apple and celery. Simmer 15 additional minutes until mixture is thickened. Cool and refrigerate before serving. Serve with chicken and other meats.

Baked Tomato and Artichoke Dip

• 15 ounces fresh/drained can diced tomatoes

• 4 ounces drained, chopped artichoke hearts

• 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

• ½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

• 1 envelope dry veggies soup mix

• 1 cup premium mayonnaise

In a mixer bowl, combine tomatoes and artichokes. Mix well. Add cheese and vegetable soup mix. Mix well. Fold in just enough mayonnaise as desired and mix well. Bake in a butter-greased 9-inch baking pan in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with assorted crackers.

Jack Cheese Pie Squares

• 8 beaten eggs

• ½ cup all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• ¾ tsp salt

• 4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

• 1 ¼ cup regular cottage cheese

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs for 3 minutes. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Stir in shredded cheese and cottage cheese. Mix well. Bake in a greased 9 x 13 baking pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. When serving, cut into squares. For additional taste and color, you can add ½ cup of chopped veggies or leafy greens to the recipe if desired.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Spread

• 14 chopped sun-dried tomatoes

• Boiling water

• 8 ounces softened cream cheese

• ¼ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese

• 2 minced cloves garlic

• 5 chopped fresh basil leaves

In a saucepan, soften sun-dried tomatoes in boiling water. Drain well and chop. In a processor, combine softened, chopped tomatoes, soft cream cheese, parmesan cheese and garlic cloves. Garnish with chopped basil leaves. Serve at room temp or slightly warmed. Spread on crostini or bruschetta. Also good as stuffing for mushrooms.

Backyard Herb Garden Spread

• 8 ounces softened cream cheese

• ½ cup sour cream

• 3 cooked, crumbled, bacon slices

• 2 Tbsp. finely chop fresh chives

• 2 Tbsp. finely chop fresh dill

• 2 tbsp. finely chop fresh chervil

• 2 Tbsp. finely chop fresh parsley

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• Freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, beat soft cream cheese until fluffy. Then add sour cream and crumbled bacon. Mix well. Stir in fresh chopped herbs, lemon juice and pepper to taste. Serve with crackers.

Peach Fuzz

• 3 unpeeled, seeded soft, ripe peaches

• 6 ounces frozen pink lemonade

• 1 lemonade can of vodka

• 1 jigger peach brandy

• Ice cubes

In a blender, place peaches, frozen lemonade, a lemonade can of vodka and peach brandy. Add ice cubes to liquid mark on the blender. Blend until slushy and pour into wine glasses.

Cream Cheese & Sweet Butter Brownies

• 1 beaten egg

• 1 Duncan Hines yellow cake mix

• 1 stick softened, salted butter

• 1 beaten egg

• 1 pound confectioners’ sugar

• 8 ounces softened cream cheese

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 cup chopped pecans

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add cake mix and softened butter. Mix well. Knead mixture into a ball and press into bottom of a butter greased 13 x 9 baking pan. In a mixer bowl, beat another egg. Add powdered sugar, softened cream cheese and vanilla. Mix well. Fold in chopped nuts and mix well. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil to help “steam” the crust and keep it soft. Cut into brownie squares.

Slices of Chocolate Pound Cake

• 1½ cups Crisco shortening

• 3 cups sugar

• 5 eggs

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• ½ cup Hershey’s cocoa

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1 ½ cup whole milk

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixer bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, thoroughly beating between each addition. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt while alternating with milk and vanilla.  Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured tube pan in a preheated 300-degree oven for 2 ½ hours. When done, allow to completely cool before slicing. Cut each slice into 2 cake bars.

Fruity Cream Cheese Dip

• 8 ounces softened cream cheese

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 2 tsp. confectioners’ sugar

• ¼ cup flaked coconut

• ¼ cup crushed pineapple/diced strawberry

In a bowl, cut cream cheese into large chunks and beat until fluffy. Add vanilla, sugar and coconut and mix well. Add pineapple with juice or ¼ cup of diced strawberries. In a processor, blend mixture until completely smooth. Serve with sweet crackers and large pieces of whole fruit. When serving, garnish with a strawberry and fresh mint on top.