Tag Archives: Cheddar cheese

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN SPAGHETTI

Our stove is still unrepaired so I continue using my daughter’s slow cooker. I hope that she doesn’t ask for it back any time soon as we’re still uncertain about how much longer the stove will be out of commission.  The rotisserie chicken for Sunday dinner turned out well. I had done two chickens so there were lots of leftovers for us and for Carol. I tried to think of how I could use the chicken in some slow cooker recipe. Soup immediately came to mind, but it seemed too hot outside for soup. I couldn’t figure out how to make chicken pot pie or chicken and dumplings without a stove. Old-fashioned chicken spaghetti sounded like a good option. We ate chicken spaghetti at the East Texas farm for as far back as I can remember. The recipe was a treasure of Susan’s mother and included a generous amount of Velveeta. I suspect the original recipe came from a Velveeta box and that it has been copied onto 3 x 5 cards in many families. This is not the authentic recipe. I used sharp Cheddar instead of Velveeta. I also wound up cleaning out the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator along with using up all of the leftover chicken.  Since the leftover chicken had been topped with garlic butter, I did not add garlic, but you could if you like. The slow cooker was the perfect utensil for the project.

RECIPE

Slow Cooker Chicken Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 4 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • leftover roasted chicken, bones and skin removed, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Sweat onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes with slow cooker set on High. Add pepper, celery, and optional garlic. Cook for another 10 minutes. Then add chicken stock and cook for 1 hour or until the vegetables are tender.
  2. Break the spaghetti into pieces that will fit into the slow cooker and stir into the pot. Cook for 20 minutes on High or until the spaghetti is just al dente.
  3. Reduce the heat to Low. Stir in the grated cheese until it is melted. Add the chicken and cook just long enough to warm it thoroughly. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
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THREE-CHEESE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

Cauliflower is a beautiful vegetable. The usual variety is snowy white and reminds me of the huge cumulus clouds that build over the New Mexico mountains during the summer and fall. Those clouds are very much a part of the art of Georgia O’Keeffe. Now there are cauliflower varieties of  electric green and purple. They are also gorgeous and beg to be eaten. A creative cook can find many ways to prepare cauliflower. You can use it raw as a crudité along with a dip, or heaven forbid, ranch dressing, or in a garden salad. You can roast it in thick slabs, and then it tastes almost like steak. The Indians use it for delicious pakoras. There are other ways to prepare it, but the fallback in most home kitchens is a steamed head of cauliflower smothered in cheese sauce. Actually, I love that combination, but in my hands the cauliflower gets soggy in the steamer and the cheese sauce slides off the cauliflower into a pool on the plate. This is my effort to correct those shortcomings by roasting the cauliflower and using a thick sauce that clings to the head  of cauliflower and  browns quickly in the oven.

RECIPE

Three-Cheese Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 1 large cauliflower, washed, trimmed of leaves and stem
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons panko
  • melted unsalted butter

Method

  1. Place the cauliflower head in a well-buttered baking dish. Bake  in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil until you are ready to add the sauce.
  2. While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two to remove the raw flavor of the flour. Add the milk, and stir until the mixture is thickened. Stir in the Cheddar cheese and nutmeg. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the sauce over the roasted cauliflower, sprinkle with the Swiss cheese, Parmesan, and panko. Drizzle melted butter over the top.
  4. Return to the oven and increase the temperature to 400°F. Roast until the topping is lightly browned and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately while still warm. I served it with sliced New York strip steak, but it will go with just about any protein you might like.

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HIDDEN OLIVES

This is another offering I took to the poetry reading. The recipe found its way into the family cookbook many years ago when my sister-in-law sent it to Susan from CaliforniaShe had made hidden olives for a cocktail party, and they got rave reviews. Now the reason that the recipe made it into the cookbook is not because it is delicious – even though it is – but rather because of the laughs that go along with it. The first time she tried the recipe, Susan used jumbo-size olives and the individual pieces turned out also to be JUMBO. At the time, Bernadette Peters was making us all laugh with her advertisement for a medication for indigestion. “What a big dumpling,” her on-screen husband say. “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” We, Susan included, thought that the hidden olives were our equivalent of the television big dumpling. If you decide to try the recipe, there are two things to remember about the olives: (1) use small olives, and (2) use olives that have had the seed removed.

For this version, I added butter to make the dough come together. It worked, but it probably also enhanced spreading in the oven. Try the recipe without butter; you can always add some if you need to. Note that with that addition, the recipe is nearly identical with the Southern classic, cheese straws.

RECIPE

Hidden Olives

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sharp or extra sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, cut in ½ inch cubes
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 32 small pimiento-stuffed olives (a 5 ounce jar should contain more than enough)

Method

  1. Grate the cheese and let stand at room temperature until soft.
  2. Place the grated cheese, flour, butter, cayenne, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the ingredients come together as a smooth, soft dough.
  3. On a work surface, shape the dough into a round ball. Cut in half. Shape each half into a ball and again cut in half. Repeat three more times. You should have 32 equal-sized pieces of dough.
  4. One by one, press an olive into the center of one of the pieces of dough, covering the olive completely and rolling between your palms to form a ball.
  5. Arrange the olive-filled balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat, leaving at least 1½ inches between the balls. They will spread during baking.
  6. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
  7. Reheat for a few minutes to serve warm, if possible, though they’re still good at room temperature.

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FRIED EGG, CHEESE, AND ONION SANDWICH

My last night home alone, and the cupboard is fairly bare except for some eggs. In such a situation, I would usually make a scrambled egg or omelet. This time, though, I had a craving for a fried egg sandwich. I remember feasting on one at 2 AM while in college.

Cramming for exams (I know, you’re not supposed to do that. ) or finishing up a multi-page research paper always generated hunger. When we needed a study break, a group of us would load up in my Nash Rambler convertible. (You probably didn’t even know there was such a car. ) Then we would drive across town to an all-night diner, The White Palace, situated next to the train tracks. The place should definitely not be confused with the iconic White Castle of the East Coast. It was definitely a greasy spoon. The coffee, while terrible, was strong enough to keep a diligent student going until dawn. The specialty of the house was their fried egg sandwich, and it was delicious. The egg was fried over-easy to make sure that the yolk was still runny. You definitely needed a napkin to keep it from running down your arm. The sandwich was layered with a thick slice of Bermuda onion, mustard, and mayonnaise. For an extra charge you could get a slice of ham. I thought it was one of the most delicious things I had ever eaten.

After college, one of my most treasured memories was the fried egg sandwiches at the White Palace. I wanted to share my joy with others. My wife was not as taken as I was. Neither was our older daughter, who can’t stand onions. But my son became a devotee, and sometimes I would make the two of us a sandwich – usually as a midnight snack. Later, whenever my son came home for visits from college he would request a fried egg sandwich. Even now, when he visits with his family I will occasionally make him a fried egg sandwich to his great delight.

There are certain obligate elements of this decidedly unrefined dish: fried egg, of course; cheese; and onion. Mayonnaise and mustard are optional, but ketchup is considered heretical. Ham or – in a pinch – bologna can be added, but they are not considered to be totally authentic. The single absolute technique required is that the yolk must be runny. The runnier the better. For serving utensils, a plate is useful, although a napkin is a necessity as you may wind up eating the sandwich over the kitchen sink. I know you will enjoy this version of the fried egg sandwich. You may think up your own variations; just don’t stray too far from the real thing.

RECIPE

Fried Egg, Cheese, and Onion Sandwich

Ingredients

  • 2 slices good quality sourdough white bread
  • butter
  • 1 ounce cheddar cheese
  • Romaine lettuce
  • white onion, slices as thick and as many as you like
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Toast the bread to taste, butter one side, and place on counter for sandwich assembly.
  2. With a cheese plane, prepare enough slices of cheese to completely cover the slices of toasted bread to your preference.
  3. Arrange lettuce leaves on one slice of the toasted bread. Arrange sliced onions on the other slice of toasted bread.
  4. Melt some of the butter in a small sauté pan. Over low to medium-low heat, fry the egg gently on one side. Turn over once just long enough to set the egg white. Transfer to one of the waiting bread slices.Close up the sandwich and eat immediately. Under no circumstances should you cut the sandwich in pieces.

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MUSHROOM PESTO STUFFED ZUCCHINI

This was an experiment that turned out to be tasty but fairly unattractive on the plate. It all came about from another attempt to clear out the refrigerator and use up leftovers.

The zucchini came from the farmers market, again from one of my favorite vendors. We both look forward to having a little conversation in Spanish before my purchases. The conversation is short because of my very limited vocabulary, but we both enjoy it.

Why, you ask, would I ever buy zucchini at the farmers market when the neighbors will soon start bringing over an endless stream of  gargantuan specimens from their garden. Therein lies the answer to your question. The vendor’s zucchini were lined up in rows, uniform in size, perfect size for cooking, and all the same shining green with perfect skin.

I bought enough zucchini to go into a ratatouille with some beautiful eggplants that I got from my other favorite vendor. And, there was enough to stuff a couple for another meal.

Then to the refrigerator and leftovers: pesto from a couple of nights ago, cooked rice, a few leftover crimini mushrooms, a white onion, a sliver of cheddar cheese. I was set. I split the zucchini in half, hollowed them out with a spoon, stuffed them with a mixture of mushrooms, rice, pesto, egg, and some seasonings., topped them with a béchamel enriched with the cheddar cheese, and baked them for a half hour. I should have worked harder to get the water out of the zucchini I added to the stuffing, but otherwise it turned out ok.

RECIPE

Mushroom Pesto Stuffed Zucchini

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini, split in half lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ small white onion, chopped finely
  • 2 medium crimini mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ cup pesto
  • ½ cup cooked rice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 ounce cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. With a spoon or small paring knife, remove the flesh from the zucchini, leaving about a ¼ inch rim and being careful not to pierce the skin.
  2. Chop the zucchini flesh finely. Squeeze out as much excess water as you can using your hands or a fine sieve and spoon. Set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté lightly until the onions are translucent but not browned. Stir in the mushrooms and chopped zucchini flesh. Stir frequently until the mushrooms are lightly browned and the mixture has given up its liquid and nearly completely evaporated. Add the Pernod and stir for just a few seconds until it has evaporated.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl. Stir in the pesto, rice, and egg until well combined.
  5. Fill the hollowed zucchini with the mixture and arrange in a well-greased ovenproof dish.
  6. Meanwhile prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir for a minute or so to remove raw flavor. Stir in the milk and continue to heat until the mixture comes to a slow boil and has thickened. Stir frequently to prevent burning on the bottom. Sit in the grated cheese. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour the sauce over the zucchini and bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350°F for 30 minutes or until the zucchini are tender and the sauce is melted and lightly browned. Serve while still warm.

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CHEESE BLOSSOMS THREE WAYS

Cheese straws are such a classic Southern tradition that it seems almost cliché to write about them. They are served at ladies’ luncheons, cocktail parties, and holiday festivities. I have been making them for years except that  during my early attempts I had a hard time turning the dough into “straws”. I used a cookie press, and the treats came out flowers. Never mind, my kids loved them so I have been making them that way ever since.

Cheese straws/blossoms are required at every family gathering, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I make double and triple batches and lug them in my carry-on luggage when I travel. That way they don’t get turned into cheese crumbs.  Even at that, the little gems disappear before everyone has had his or her fill. In fact, after many years, I have learned that some of the family have hidden away private stashes, not trusting the others to share gracefully.

This year, Carol and Cameron will be visiting from Los Angeles for a few days. Then my wife and I will head to the Bay Area to enjoy Thanksgiving with the others. I decided to make three batches and to try different cheese combinations. The usual version uses extra sharp Cheddar cheese. I gave Swiss (Emmentaler) and bleu (Roquefort) cheeses a try as well. The recipes are not wildly different, but because of the different moistures and consistencies of the three cheeses, a little different approach is required for each. In the end, though, I was pleased with the result.

RECIPES

Cheddar Cheese Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces. Important: Do NOT use margarine.

Method

  1. With the grater blade in place, grate the cheese in food processor. Transfer to a plate and let come to room temperature.
  2. Change to the metal blade of the food processor. Add grated cheese, flour, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
  3. Add the butter and continue to process until it forms a ball.  Do not over-process or the butter will melt and separate.
  4. Turn out on a work surface, Knead until any extra crumbs of the dough are incorporated into the ball.
  5. Working in batches, use a cookie press to form flower shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake in the middle of oven preheated to 300°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Bake a few minutes longer if you want a darker color. Cool on a baking rack and store in an air-tight tin.
  7. Makes about 6 dozen.

Swiss Cheese and Dill Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces “Swiss” (Emmentaler) cheese
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Kirsch
  • 2 tablespoons dill fronds, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces. Important: Do NOT use margarine.

Method

  1. With the grater blade in place, grate the cheese in food processor. Transfer to a plate and let come to room temperature.
  2. Change to the metal blade of the food processor. Add grated cheese,flour, Kirsch, dill and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
  3. Add the butter and continue to process until it forms a ball.  Do not over-process or the butter will melt and separate.
  4. Turn out on a work surface, Knead until any extra crumbs of the dough are incorporated into the ball.
  5. Working in batches, use a cookie press to form flower shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake in the middle of oven preheated to 300°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Bake a few minutes longer if you want a darker color. Cool on a baking rack and store in an air-tight tin.
  7. Makes about 6 dozen

Roquefort Cheese Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Roquefort cheese
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces. Important: Do NOT use margarine.

Method

  1. Crumble the cheese into the bowl of the food processor. Add  flour, Pernod,  and salt. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.Add the butter and continue to process until it forms a ball.  Do not over-process or the butter will melt and separate.
  2. Turn out on a work surface, Knead until any extra crumbs of the dough are incorporated into the ball.
  3. Working in batches, use a cookie press to form flower shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake in the middle of oven preheated to 300°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Bake a few minutes longer if you want a darker color. Cool on a baking rack and store in an air-tight tin.
  5. Makes about 6 dozen

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SAUSAGE-STUFFED ZUCCHINI

Zucchini season, and the bounty keeps rolling in. We do not have any squash plants in our garden patch, but there is an abundance at the farmers market and from our neighbors. It is a common situation. Many folks this time of year are experiencing zucchini burn-out. Squash blossoms are delicious, but they require immediate attention to maintain their freshness. Sautéed squash begins to get a bit boring, and so the search of the web and a shelf of cookbooks begins. Deborah Madison, the Santa Fe-based vegetarian cookbook author has numerous suggestions in her collections. I especially recommend her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (Broadway Books, New York) and The Savory Way (Broadway Books, New York) for all sorts of suggestions.

One of my favorite ways to cook zucchini is to grate it with a box grater, sauté it along with some scallions and sliced mushrooms in olive oil, drain any excess oil, stir in some sour cream and fresh lemon juice, and serve. So simple that no recipe is needed

Today, though, I am going to write about stuffed zucchini. The first time I ever had a stuffed squash was years ago at the home of a colleague from Greece who stuffed the tender fruits with feta, Cheddar cheese and bread crumbs. This version is a little more complicated but still not difficult.

RECIPE

Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini

Ingredients

  • 3 firm, medium zucchini (make certain they are not too big)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 medium crimini mushrooms, washed and chopped
  • ½ pound bulk breakfast sausage (mild or hot, your preference)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup almond flour (use all-purpose flour if you prefer)
  • 1 egg, beaten slightly
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly (or enough to cover the zucchini)
  • ½ pound Swiss cheese, grated
  • cooking spray
  • butter

Method

  1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise. With a grapefruit spoon or sharp paring knife, hollow out the squash with about ¼ inch of a rim remaining. Try not to pierce the skin of the squash.
  2. In a medium sauté  pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the chopped onions and cook until they are translucent but not browned. Stir in the chopped mushrooms, and cook until they give up their liquid and the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a cooking spoon so that it is completely crumbled.
  4. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and while it is still warm, stir in the cream cheese so it is completely incorporated. Stir in the almond flour and egg. Set aside until you are ready to stuff the zucchini.
  6. Choose a baking pan that is large enough to hold all of the squash, or use two dishes, and spray generously with baking spray.
  7. Arrange the zucchini in the pan, and spray them lightly with baking spray.
  8. Fill the hollowed-out zucchini with the sausage mixture.
  9. Top with tomato slices seasoned with more salt and pepper, and cover with the grated Swiss cheese.
  10. Dot with butter, and bake in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350° F for 30 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the zucchini is tender.
  11. Serve immediately.

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