Tag Archives: cheese

Homemade Cheez-Its for Megan

Our two pals (Justen & Megan, nosy) are marrying each other next weekend and we have been celebrating! Most recently at Megan’s bachelorette party, held at a beautiful Minnesota winery.

Meg sometimes gets hangry and loves Cheez-Its (who doesn’t….) so I thought a nice part of her gift would be a homemade version that might soak up the wine the next day.

This recipe was harder than driving to the store and opening up a box of crackers, but barely. It has only a few ingredients and tastes fantastic. These are not a health food, but a fun gift or snack for a party.

I found many recipes but the one I went with, which was great, was America’s Test Kitchen inspired.  Homemade Cheez-Its
serves 1 Meg // recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen and Tracey 

Ingredients
6 oz (1 1/2 cups) grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or more, I put another shake in)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons water

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

3. Add cheese, butter, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or add to a food processor. Mix on low speed until the mixture comes together and starts to stick to the sides of the bowl, about 30 seconds.

4. Add the flour and cornstarch, beating until incorporated – the mixture should look like coarse sand.

5. Mix in 2 tablespoons of water. (If the dough seems too dry, you can add up to 1 tablespoon of additional water to bring it together.)

6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

7. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle with a rolling pin to about 1/16-inch thick. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the dough into 1-inch wide strips, then cut 1-inch squares from those strips. (If you have  fancy-edged-pastry cutter, use it! Also, the size of the cracker doesn’t have to be perfect.)

8. Transfer the squares to the prepared baking sheets – pack them in pretty tightly, they don’t spread very much!

9. Using the flat end of a wooden skewer (or something similar), poke a hole in the center of each dough square.

 10. Bake the crackers until the edges just begin to turn gold brown, which takes about 15-20 minutes. (Check them and turn the pan in the oven after ten minutes, then check again at 15 minutes, then every few minutes after until they are done.

11. Let the crackers cool on the baking sheet.

Pack them up in a mason jar, tie a bow around it and give it to your favorite bachelorette of the month. Or yourself. Or anyone else. Everyone will be jumping for joy.


Michelle Obama’s Cauliflower Mac + Cheese

I had a half of a head of cauliflower to use and I was really craving mac + cheese. I knew it was time to Google and a Michelle Obama recipe popped up. I guess since it’s political season, this recipe of was appropriate I suppose.

Cauliflower Mac + Cheese (adapted from The First Lady/Yum Sugar)

Ingredients

1/2 pound penne pasta (half a box–use whole wheat. just do it!)
1 cup milk
8oz shredded cheddar cheese (or a mixture of your favorite melting cheeses)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1.5 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Topping:
1/2 tablespoon melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente.
2. Steam the cauliflower until soft, about 10 minutes. Immersion blend the cauliflower(or transfer to a blender) along with a few tablespoons of the steaming liquid into a puree the cauliflower. Add more steaming liquid to thin the puree if necessary.
3. In a medium size casserole dish, combine the pasta and hot cauliflower puree. Add the milk, both cheeses, parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter and breadcrumbs with your fingers until it resembles damp sand. Sprinkle across the top of the pasta mixture, then place the dish in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until the top is crispy and the sauce is bubbling.

I was really skeptical about this dish considering I usually make mac + cheese with a delicious cheese sauce. But, It was really good, very quick and easy and I’d make it again.

For the cheeses I used low-fat sharp cheddar and Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar which you MUST RUN TO TRADER JOE’S NOW and get. It is a cross between sharp cheddar and parmesan. Good luck not eating the whole brick!

Back to the dish… the cauliflower taste was there, but it was subtle. Perfect for any vegetable-phobic in your life. Or if you want to trick yourself into eating more vegetables… I don’t think Michelle Obama would be mad.

Primavera Pasta.

Spring! One day, I’ll quit talking about how excited I am that it isn’t winter anymore. But not today!

This dish is one my Mom and I saw on Rachael Ray’s 30 minute meals TV show. I used to claim to not be able to stand her perky personality and meals that seemed to be thrown together, but I’m okay with her now. In fact, I actually really like her magazine–you should give it a try.

Most recipes my family or I see on TV/in a magazine/in a cookbook/online etc that we decide to make tend to get modifed in some way.  My Mom modified this recipe to make it more fresh and less creamy, and also vegetarian! Pro Tip: read recipe reviews/comments to get tips and tricks. Or just keep coming back here and I’ll dole them out!

The Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 zucchinis, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked tiny pasta (I used Ditalini)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, a handful
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

1.Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil.

2. Add garlic and onions and cook for about 1 minute.

2. Add green pepper, zucchini and carrots. Saute 5 minutes, or until veggies are cooked.

3. Add in your favorite tiny pasta (orzo is the best, but whatever you have works!) Stir in parmesan cheese, parsley and peas. Season with salt and pepper, to your taste. Add some garlic salt if needed. 

The picture barely does this recipe justice. Add a salad or a piece of baguette to this meal and enjoy. Maybe even take it and eat outside!


Saucy!

Come on, who doesn’t love cheese sauce!? If you don’t, you just haven’t made this recipe yet.

I love vegetables now, but as a kid I’m sure I wasn’t their #1 fan. I think my Mom made this cheese sauce as a way to get us to eat an excess of veggies. I don’t need to be tricked into eating vegetables anymore, but I still love this cheese sauce. We always had it served with noodles too and it makes an amazing mac + cheese. It’s super rich, and not the healthiest so we didn’t get to eat it very often. A good rule, even today.

The cheese sauce is a little tricky if you’ve never made a roux or a white sauce before, or if you’re me, but it’s awesome. And worth it.

Cheese Sauce w/ Broccoli, Cauliflower // Mac + Cheese

The Ingredient List:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1-2 broccoli crowns
  • 2 servings of cooked elbow noodles
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt + pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk-warmed
  • 2+ cups shredded 2% sharp cheddar cheese
Directions
1. Cook the elbow noodles according to the box, and set aside.
2. Wash and cut the broccoli and cauliflower into medium-sized florets. Use a vegetable steamer and in a large saucepan, bring 1 in. of water, broccoli and cauliflower to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 5-15 minutes or until veggies are crisp-tender.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour until blended and a little brown.
3. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; add cheese, stirring until melted. 
4. Drain veggies and noodles, pour cheese sauce over top… and dig in!

Mmm. Mac + Cheese! Veggies + Cheese sauce! So versatile!  You can serve this cheese sauce with any vegetable or type of noodle you like. You can even double the cheese sauce recipe and pour it over noodles + throw it in the oven for a traditional mac and cheese.
What would you put this cheese sauce on?

Cinco de April Cheese Enchiladas

I got home really early from Vegas last Monday morning. I stumbled through work and when I returned home to zero food in our fridge. I was going to put off grocery shopping (tired + a post-Monday grocery trip seemed terrible!) but I had heard a “Cinco de Mayo” ad on the radio and looked at my phone to notice it was the 4th.

I alerted my boyfriend. “Ok, we have to go to the store and get stuff to make something Mexican and awesome for my blog. It’s Cinco de Mayo tomorrow!” And off we went.

Whilst in the store, I decided I’d try out my Mom’s enchiladas which I have made once about 2.5 years ago. They aren’t particuarlly good for you but after a weekend in Vegas, I didn’t feel like taking tequila shots or having Coronas (I don’t ever feel like drinking either of those things) and I knew Cinco de Mayo was a holiday deserving of these awesome enchiladas. So, the ingredients went in the cart and we made our way home.

Guys. As I was unloading the ingredients for these bad boys I realized… it was April 4th. Not May. I’m going to go ahead and blame sleep depravation for this one. And Brent, considering he didn’t correct me.

The Ingredient List
(as written by mi Madre, and below that for easy copy/pasting)

  • A pack of 20 yellow corn tortillas
  • 1 large can (19oz) of red enchilada sauce (Old El Paso is the best!)
  • 1 smaller (10 oz) can of red enchilada sauce
  • 2 cans diced/chopped green chilies
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar (Cracker Barrel 2% is the best)
  • 8 oz of Monteray Jack
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced

Directions

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°. Dice the onion, shred the cheeses and combine both with 1 or 2 cans of green chilies in a bowl and set aside.

2. Pour all of the enchilada sauce in a huge frying pan and let it heat up on medium (about 1 or 2 minutes). Reduce to low.

3. Coat a large baking dish with pam and pour 1/3rd of the enchilada sauce into it to cover the bottom.

4. Wet some paper towels or a thin towel and place the corn tortillas in this in the microwave for about a minute or until the tortillas are warm. Keep the towel around the tortillas at all times, and if they become cold, just pop ’em back in the microwave. This will prevent cracking and breaking.

5. One at a time, dunk the tortillas in the warm enchilada sauce. This will be hot on your pretty little hands, so get used to it! (or let it cool for a few seconds) Then stuff the tortilla w/ some cheese/onion/chilies mix, roll it up (2-4 tablespoons worth) and shove it in the baking dish.

6. Do this until you run out of room in your baking dish. Make sure the enchilada rolls are very close together and pour all of the enchilada sauce leftover in the frying pan over the enchiladas.

7. Pop these in the pre-heated 350° oven, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes. I like these crunchy so I tend to leave them in longer, and I suggest you do too. Also, these taste better the next day, trust me.

If you have leftover cheese mix… make some rice (white or brown) and add it to the rice hot with enough salsa to coat the mixture. Microwave the mix for a minute to warm up the salsa and boom: cheesy mexican rice. This was a big hit at our Cinco de April dinner, and costs next to nothing to make.

I’ll leave you with a slide show (fancy!) of all the steps and the beauty of the final product. Maybe you could put this recipe on the back burner and make it on the real Cinco de Mayo.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pizza Party*!

We almost ordered a pizza on Friday, but then got a text that our neighbor-pals wanted to go out. Then I missed a text (by 2 hours) that my friends were at a place with great pizza down the street. Ok, universe. I’ll make my own!

Getting/going out for pizza is fine sometimes, but once you make it at home – and I don’t mean frozen pizza- you won’t often go back. You can top your pizza with exactly what you. Want tomatoes but not a ton, fine, do it! Go get your dough and try it out.

I have tried lots of pre-made dough, and most are just fine, but the best one I’ve tried yet has been from Great Harvest. I love going there on the weekends and getting a sample of bread and picking up a dough ball. They sell both white and wheat, and the last time I  went with wheat. The wheat has more fiber, is better for you and tastes awesome.

Just like most of the dishes I make, this one contained pretty much what I had on hand:

My Ingredient List:

1 wheat dough ball
1/4 c. diced white onion
1/2 c. baby spinach
1/4 c. feta cheese
1/4 c. tomato
4 oz shredded mozzarella
5 artichoke hearts (chopped)
1 clove garlic
1 packet of pizza sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
flour to roll out the dough

To make this pizza extra perfect I would have loved to had some mushrooms, green pepper and basil to put on top but there will always be a next time.

To start, go by whatever the instructions on your dough say. I had to let my dough sit out for 2 hours, and then get to rolling in it into my desired shape.

Flour the table + rolling pin first, then roll!

Sometimes you have to stretch it a little by hand.

I then put the dough on an Pam-sprayed circular cookie sheet to rise for 10 minutes. After that, I popped it in a 350º oven for 15 minutes as per instructions. The entire house smelled like homemade bread baking… amazing.

I then sauced the pizza using a packet of Boboli sauce- I really like these because they are individually packaged to fit on a large pizza, nothing goes to waste. On top of the sauce I first add the chopped garlic, then the spinach, and then all of the other vegetables. I only put the artichoke hearts on half as my partner in pizza eating crime Brent doesn’t enjoy those.

I like the toppings under the cheese... for no reason.

After the toppings, put the mozzarella and feta on top, and sprinkle with dried oregano. Then, place into the already very pre-heated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. After everything looks done, I like to put my pizza under the broiler to brown the cheese a bit.

If I cook during the day, maybe I wont have to use my flash...

While that was cooking, I had to think up what I wanted to eat with this. While it is veggie-heavy, I needed something else. I really wanted to make a salad to go with this, but Brent found some carrots that only had a few days of life left. Since I hate wasting food, and the oven was already on so I decided to make some roasted carrots.

Take 4 or 5 carrots, peel them and then chop them into 1/4-1/2-inch wide by 3″ long sticks. (Or, however big you want them!) Put them on a Pam’d pan and sprinkle with salt + pepper and stick ’em in the oven at 350-400º for about 15 minutes. If you like these on the crispy side, broil them for a bit right at the end.

Ready for the oven.

Although carrots + pizza don’t sound like a typical combo, I’d have to recommend it. Try it.

*Ok, there wasn’t a party.