cheese

Migas

Let’s get to it. Have you bought the cookbook, It’s All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow yet? I don’t know what more I could do to promote this book. I have loved everything about it- including my most recent re-creation, Migas. It looks like there are a few variations of the dish, translated as “crumbs” depending on where you go, Spain, Portugal or Mexico. These are more Mexican style, using tortillas and eggs to make an awesome “breakfast nacho” dish. (Although the first time I made them, they were eaten for dinner and did not disappoint. They were “migas with amigos” -thank you Chad.) I’ve added a little twist with my chunky guacamole salsa. And I should note, that from here on out all corn tortillas should be fried with diced onion. It should be a law. Drop the mic.

As organic as possible:

Inspired by Migas, in It’s All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow… which serves 1- so I quadrupled the following recipe in “1 serving” batches:

1-2 Tbsp of Olive oil

3 mini corn tortillas, quartered (making 12 wedges)

2 Tbsp diced white Onion

2 Eggs

Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

1/4 cup grated Mild Cheddar

2 Tbsp Guacamole Salsa

2 Tbsp Salsa

3 slices Jalapeño (optional)

1 Tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro

 

In a non-stick frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the tortilla wedges and onion. Cook until onions start to soften and tortilla starts to crisp.

Crack the eggs right over the tortillas and onions.

Season with salt and pepper, and give the whole thing a messy stir. When eggs are almost cooked through add the cheese and give a stir.

Transfer to a plate and top with the guacamole, salsa, jalapeño and cilantro.

Migas

Ingredients

  • 1-2 Tbsp of Olive oil
  • 3 mini corn tortillas, quartered (making 12 wedges)
  • 2 Tbsp diced white Onion
  • 2 Eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Mild Cheddar
  • 2 Tbsp Guacamole Salsa (see Sadie's Nest for recipe or substitute with sliced avocado)
  • 2 Tbsp Salsa
  • 3 slices Jalapeño (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a non-stick frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the tortilla wedges and onion. Cook until onions start to soften and tortilla starts to crisp.
  2. Crack the eggs right over the tortillas and onions.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, and give the whole thing a messy stir. When eggs are almost cooked through add the cheese and give a stir.
  4. Transfer to a plate and top with the guacamole salsa, salsa, jalapeño and cilantro.
http://sadiesnest.com/migas/

Loving Lately 🧀

Loving Lately: Cheese

Truth be known, I never fall out of love with cheese. Confession: I am a cheese lover; creamy, sharp, firm, sweet, musky… rank, stank, or dank. I’m like part mouse. So I kind of lose my mind in front of a good cheese section at a market. Honestly, I could spend all of our monthly reserves (and then some). And the practical part of me is like, it’s just cheese… wouldn’t you rather save that money for something else? Vacation? Pedicure? Getting your roots touched up? And the answer is no. Because I love cheese. And I never feel guilty about buying food. True story. Because feeding my family is completely justifiable. I wish you could have seen all of the ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan that was in our baked ziti last night.

So, on our monthly pilgrimage to Trader Joes (because it is about an hour away) I admittedly got carried away. I allow myself to let loose because anything with the “Trader Joe” label (or Trader José or Trader Ming) gives effort to uphold the following standards: NO artificial flavors, NO artificial preservatives, YES colors derived only from naturally available products, NO MSG, NO genetically modified ingredients, NO partially hydrogenated oils (artificial trans-fats), etc. Those kind of things matter to me. (For a full discloser of the Trader Joe policy click here.)

According to cheese.com, cheese was born around 4000 years ago when people started to process the milk of their animals. It is a food made mostly from the milk of cows but also other mammals, including sheep, goats, buffalo, reindeer, camels and yaks. I’ll tell you, it was a stroke of genius. Wikipedia says, “Cheese is a food derived from milk that is produced in a wide range of flavors, textures, and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein… usually acidified…” Yadi yadi yada… It’s delicious. There are around 500 different varieties recognised by the International Dairy Federation, but nearly 1,000 identified through other standards, ranging by starters and moisture contents, etc.

Buenalba? What is that? Do I like it? Probably- because it’s cheese. There’s only one way to find out. Emmentaler and Gruyère? I love my Swiss cheeses… Fondue anyone? It is perfect for these chilly evenings! Comté and Brie? A nod to my French heritage. I could finish off that roll of Chevre by myself… with ease… and delight. English Stilton? It’s pear season for crying out loud! It’s always time for Greek Feta. I bought some great American cheddar. And just like that, I’ve been to Europe and back- via cheese. I’m in love. And it never gets old, maybe aged. That’s a cheesy joke.

The Art of the Cheese Platter

I am a lover of good cheese (it’s in my bio). So a beautiful cheese platter is a treasure to behold. Don’t let me fool you, I haven’t perfected the art of assembly. In fact, I beat my self up for like an hour for cutting my Mango-Ginger Stilton in to square crumbles rather than leaving it in a wedge for my guests to cut themselves. (It’s a bad habit I have. I still get embarrassed that my voice cracked during an 8th grade choir solo. I KNOW! I need to get over it. I have issues.) However, I’ve included some tips I’ve picked up and some ideas from the experts (or at least a couple of people I admire).

img_7357

Here is a guide to make The Ultimate Cheese Plate from What’s Gaby Cooking. Her pictures are always stunning.

e51a9376d8c555b4180954d0c2b1dfc6

Courtesy of What’s Gaby Cooking

I love that cheese board. I almost put out some dried fruit… and I would have loved to place an assortment of nuts on my trays, but my youngest son has a nut allergy. What’s a girl to do? Well, I’ll tell you what I did, I avoided the risk. I appreciate how much she loaded the tray with variety too. My platters aren’t quite that full, mostly because I turned the whole table into a large assortment. But I did take note and try to vary ingredients on each plate; a fruit or olive or pickle, a cheese or two, a choice of cracker or dried bread or pita chip, etc.

img_7368

I think when making a cheese plate, it is important to show case several different cheeses, not just in flavor but in texture and style too. Naturally the amount of food is based on the number of guests. But even if you are only having a few people over, if you are having a “cheese board” you probably want to have a variety. Maybe a spreadable cheese, a hard sliced or cubed cheese and possibly a semi-soft cheese like a brie or a crumbled cheese. Of course, my favorite Smoky Cheese Ball makes an appearance at most of our gatherings (pecans included, it’s the one exception). Jessica Merchant from How Sweet Eats describes How to Make a Killer Cheese Plate with a few cheese ball recipes too.

Courtesy of How Sweet Eats

Courtesy of How Sweet Eats

I’m a fan of labeling the food for guests, especially when there are many to choose from. I suppose if it were a small gathering and we were all sitting together I might remember the names of all of the sausages, cheeses, crackers and what-have-you. But if there are more than two or three of each, I’d probably be hard pressed to rattle off the titles of all of them. They do manufacture some beautiful note cards, little chalkboards, and the like for such an occasion. A little creativity, i.e, legible penmanship, index cards cut into shapes, toothpicks and tape works too!

img_7382

Lastly, I love that Honestly Yum used fresh figs in their post, The Perfect Fall Cheese Platter. Doesn’t it just seem right? And look at that rustic plank cheese board! Swoon.

f73ac814d126b9d2b99343c4a654d2cb

Courtesy of Honestly Yum

Above all remember it’s all about good times with good friends! (I keep telling myself that too!)

 

Erica’s Apple Baked Brie

A friend of mine made this, so I feel at ease to boast and say, “Look at this gorgeous presentation!” I am a long-time fan of baked brie. If you are not familiar with the cheese, it is a soft French cow’s milk cheese, most often encased in an edible covering of white mold. Depending on the process it can range from very mild to a strong musky flavor. (I am not one to shy away from a pungent cheese). Usually I do mine wrapped in a puff pastry, but I love that Erica used a croissant pastry dough! It made for such a lovely crust! Of course the rustically sliced apples were beautiful too… and then the taste! Sweet apples and brown sugar with warm creamy brie on slices of fresh bread, grainy crackers, and ripe fruit. La vie en rose!

1 – 16 oz round Brie

2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

1 apple (plus 1/2 for decoration, optional)

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) Butter

2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

1 Egg

 

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Thinly slice or dice (your preference) the apple and sauté it in the butter. Add the brown sugar to the butter and apple mixture, and gently stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture has slightly thickened. Place the beautiful apple syrup on top of the Brie and wrap it in the crescent rolls. Whisk the egg and brush it top of the dough. Optionally, cut a few slices of apple for decoration and position them on top in a circular pattern. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese is warmed through. Allow to set for a few minutes before serving. You want the cheese to be warm and spreadable, but not to ooze. Serve with slice rounds of bread, apple slices, and or crackers.

IMG_5396

Dorito Taco Salad

This is like in a food group all of its own… or it should be. We should be required to have one serving every day. It definitely is a mandatory staple at all potlucks. It’s colorful and textural and down right appetizing. If you’ve tasted Dorito Taco Salad before then you know what I’m talking about. If by chance you haven’t, well then today is your lucky day! And may I suggest that you change all other dinner plans?

 

1 lb Hamburger

1 pkg Taco seasoning

l bag Nacho Cheese Doritos (10 oz.)

16 oz.  Catalina salad dressing

8 oz. (2 cups) Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 head Ice Burg Lettuce

 

(Side note: I know that saying “as organic as possible” seems odd in this case… but every bit is worth doing! Even the hamburger, lettuce and cheese!)

Brown hamburger and add taco seasoning according to package directions. Set aside to cool. Break lettuce into bite size pieces. Crush chips to bite size. After meat cools add to lettuce and cheese mixed together. When ready to serve add chips and dressing. It’s best to mix every thing just before serving if possible (otherwise the Doritos begin to lose their crunchy texture).

Other optional toppings include sliced scallions, salsa, olives, diced green pepper, etc., but you will never be disappointed with the basic. Furthermore, you might want to have another bottle of Catalina dressing and bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos on hand and add to taste, because sometimes as a party goes on I like to add more Doritos and Catalina, and toss.

IMG_5280

Fried Ravioli

Little soft pillows of creamy cheese… coated in a blend of bread crumbs, Parmesan, and Italian herbs… fried into crispy golden perfection… A little warm marinara for dipping on the side… It’s a good day… dolce vita.

As organic as possible:

2o oz. frozen Cheese Ravioli

3/4 cup Flour

5 eggs

8 oz Parmesan & Italian Herb Bread Crumbs

2 tsp salt

3-4 cups of frying oil (give or take depending on the size of your skillet) such as Canola or Peanut

Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

 

This is a perfect example of how prepping your work area first makes the job a lot easier. In 3 separate shallow baking dishes (brownie pans, small casserole dishes, etc.) place the flour, whisk the eggs, and toss the Parmesan & Herbed bread crumbs with the salt. Heat your oil on the high end of medium. The oil is ready when you sprinkle a small amount of flour in it and it starts to sizzle. You only need a couple inches of depth.

While you’re waiting for your oil to get hot, take the frozen ravioli and dip it in the egg, coating it completely. Dip the egg covered ravioli in the flour, covering it, and lightly shaking off the extra. Then put the ravioli back into the whisked eggs, covering it again, and lastly into the bread crumb mixture. Make sure to get every area of the cheesy pouch coated with the delicious salty herbed bread crumbs. Repeat. Make sure you have a a few ready to go before you start to fry.

When the oil is ready, fry the raviolis in batches of about 4 or 5 at a time (to not lower the temperature oil too much). After about a minute, flip the ravioli and let it cook another half to whole minute. Using a slotted spoon or something similar remove the raviolis to a paper towel-lined plate. When raviolis are fried, transfer to serving dish of your choice and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan, (maybe even freshly chopped parsley if you’re into that sort of thing) accompanied by some warmed marinara sauce for dipping. Buon Appetito!

 

 

 

Spicy Pork Nachos

Are nachos like one of the best food creations ever? It’s this pile of complimentary flavors and contrasting textures that together make for one awesome combination of a bite. Salty, savory, cheesy, creamy, fresh… Like an orchestra playing a symphony- for your mouth. And it’s so easy to cater to your own taste. If you want it on there, well go ahead and put it on the stack. If you don’t like it, you know what (not) to do. We love making nachos. I’ve used beef, chili, turkey and now thanks to the inspiration of Whitney Miller’s New Southern Table, my very own spicy pork nachos.

As organic as possible:

1 1/2 cups Refried Beans (or 1 can)

1/2 cup Mild or Hot Taco Sauce (homemade or store bought)

1 bag Corn chips (you will probably have some leftover)

1 lb Fiesta Pulled Pork (or shredded pork of your choice)

2 cups shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (or Manchego)

2 oz sliced or dices Jalapeños

4 oz Queso Fresco, crumbled

2 scallions, sliced

Optional toppings for serving include (but are not limited to) salsa, sour cream, pico de gallo…

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium sauce pan on medium-low heat, warm refried beans and taco sauce until beans are soft and pliable for easier spreading, and more flavorful for layers of deliciousness.

Using a large flat baking dish, pizza stone or baking sheet place the corn chips in a single to double layer, overlapping the chips so there is no space for toppings to fall through.

Start the layering process with the bean and sauce combination. Use a spoon the kind of drop and spread the beans in an evenly sporadic way on top of the chips until all of the mixture is used. (I’ve also used a canned organic vegetarian chili.) Next scatter the bite-sized pieces of tender and spicy pork in an covering over the beans and chips. Follow the pork with with a nice layer of cheddar cheese. Cheese is extremely important when it comes to nachos, so be generous. For a little heat and a splash of color, lightly and evenly sprinkle the jalapeños atop of the cheese.

Place that dish of loaded goodness in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, and gooey, about 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove the nachos from the oven and top with crumbled queso fresco, sliced scallions… and salsa. Enjoy!

 

img_6546

 

 

Pizza Bagels

This is proof that food can be fun. I have some cherished childhood memories of my dad making pizza bagels. It’s the kind of food he’d make for us while mom was away at a baby shower or something. It seemed exciting because, well for one, we were cooking with dad. Second, it was all things we were familiar with and knew we liked. Pizza! For another, it really seemed like we were getting creative. Taking something made for one thing and turning it into something completely different. Kids eat that kind of stuff up! (Figuratively and literally… and so do adults.) It really doesn’t get much easier!

As organic as possible:

Makes 8 servings

4 plain or everything Bagels, cut in half

1 – 14.5 oz jar or can of favorite prepared or homemade pizza sauce

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

4 oz Pepperoni

*Any other topping you like (my kids pretty much stop right there)

 

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Place bagel halves, open faced, on a baking sheet. Spoon on desired amount of sauce on each bagel. (Side note: This is a lot of fun for kids (big and small). And everyone can adjust the toppings to their preferences.) Place a handful of shredded mozzarella on top of the sauce. Sporadically or methodically place pepperonis on top of the cheese (keeping in mind they will shrink in size when they cook).

Place the pizza works of art into the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Leave it until it starts to brown if you prefer. This is your show. But do allow them to cool slightly before you bite into them, because the sauce will be surprisingly hot, and if you burn your tongue on the first bite, you will ruin the rest of your dinner. …And tasty pizza bagels are too tasty and fun to not enjoy!

Hot Artichoke Dip

I am a sucker for hot cheesy dips. Melted flavorful cheese is hard to resist. Period. Give me a cracker, a chip, or a spoon.  I know I’m not alone. The best part of these dips is that they are good all year round. Bring ’em to a pot luck or a party; you won’t disappoint anyone. I am also fond of artichokes. They are great hearty and healthy vegetables that can stand up to a lot of flavor. The combination is perfect as an appetizer, for a midday snack or a light meal …A little reminder that food can taste really good.

As organic as possible:

1 – 12 oz jar Marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1 – 14 oz can Artichoke hearts, drained

8 oz Cream cheese

1 cup Mayonnaise

1 tsp granulated Garlic

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground Black pepper

1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper

3 Scallions (green onion), chopped

3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place half of the jar of marinated artichoke hearts into a food processor and set the rest aside. Add the can of drained artichoke hearts, cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne and scallions into the processor and pulse (not to liquify) until all is incorporated together.

Chop the remaining marinated artichoke hearts into small bite size pieces. In a large bowl add artichoke mixture, chopped artichokes and Parmesan cheeses. Stir until combined. Check for taste, and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Spoon cheesy artichoke goodness into a medium sized baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, until hot and bubbly (and maybe just starting to brown around the edges). Serve with tortilla chips or crackers. Savor.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Susan’s Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is just such a real comfort food. It’s creamy, hearty and warm, and the perfect remedy for a cold day, rainy day or even a hard day. “Mac” short for “macaroni” is really a blanket term for whichever pasta one happens to choose. Big shells, little shells, cavatelli, cavatappi… cook it al dente, cover it with cheesy goodness and bake it until bubbly perfection. I’m in. This is my sister-in-law’s variation; it’s delicious.

As organic as possible:

8 oz “Mac” noodles (today we’re using medium shells)

1/4 cup Butter

2 1/2 Tbsp flour

2 cups Sharp cheddar

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

3 cups of milk

 

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cook pasta just short of the package recommendation (as they will continue to soften in the oven).

In a large sauce pan, make a roux using the flour and butter. (Over a medium heat, cook the flour and butter for a couple minutes, stirring regularly, and keeping watch not to burn.) Add milk, whisk. Add cheese and stir until melted. Mix sauce and noodles cover with bread crumbs or crumbled crackers. Bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes.