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Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

Mac and Cheese

Sad, but true, I’ve never made mac and cheese.  I’ve never had the boxed stuff either.  Just not my cup of tea, or FHE’s.  Rice Kernel has tasted it a few times.  He seems excited by the prospect, but never takes more than a few bites. Recently, there was a PJ party at his school and the only thing left to sign up for – you guessed it, mac and cheese.   I choose Ina Garten’s version – how could you go wrong with butter, pasta, and cheese?  I made it a bit healthier with less butter, but it was still decadent.  The Mom in me wanted to sneak in butternut squash.  My son wouldn’t be the wiser, but I thought of the other kids and I knew better =)

macncheese

 

Recipe here.

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Brown Rice Fritters

Similar to aranchini, these are healthier and easier to prepare – pan-fried quickly to produce golden, crispy edges and a slightly creamy interior.  I prefer to add some substance to the fritters but adding some finely-chopped chicken or vegetables, but they are delicious plain as a side dish or an appetizer.  Something different from the usual rice/bread/pasta side that dominates our meal planning. 

Brown Rice Fritters

Ingredients

2 cups Cooked Short-Grain Brown Rice
1⁄2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
1⁄2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 beaten egg
1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄4 cup olive oil
optional add-ins – chopped chicken/ham, scallions or finely-grated vegetables

  1. Combine rice, parmigiano-reggiano, oregano, salt, pepper, and egg. Form rice mixture into eight 2″ round cakes. Transfer cakes to a sheet tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow them to firm up.
  2. Put flour on a plate; dredge cakes in flour. Heat oil and 3 tbsp. of the butter in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry cakes, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

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FHE used to love Hot Pockets from the freezer section (Lean Pockets is what we actually bought).  Simple and savory, I remember years of storing the tiny packages in our freezer for a last-minute bite in the morning and a post-soccer game snack at 11 p.m.  It has been years since we’ve purchased them, mostly because they aren’t the most wholesome food choice.  (FHE’s words, not mine.)  But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy them.  With fresh pizza dough aplenty at the grocery store, homemade versions can come together quickly.  This is also a project perfect for little fingers.  For my mostly-vegetarian son, this means a little cheese and lots of broccoli.  He’s recently (finally) discovered a love of pepperoni so that was on our menu as well today.

Making a hot pocket or a calzone is similar to making a pizza.  Some tips, though: 

  1. Poke small holes in the top of your calzone so steam can escape and you don’t develop too many air pockets inside.
  2. Be sure to seal the edges really well, otherwise you will have a big mess.
  3. Brush the top of the calzone with olive oil or eggwash before you put it in the oven for a golden finish.
     
    Basic recipe here.
     

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This one-dish rice gratin tosses a handful of ingredients together and transforms them into a warm, comforting complete meal.  Flecked with beautiful bits of spinach (or whatever greens you have on hand), the top bakes into a gooey, cheesy crust with crunchy sprinkles of toasted pine nuts.  I took a bite out of the corner to “test” the results and, next thing I knew, Rice Kernel and I each had a fork in our hand and a forkful of rice in our mouths!

Spinach Rice Gratin, adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups leftover/pre-cooked white or brown rice, room temp
1 1/2 cups cups well finely chopped spinach (or chard or kale, or a mixture)
4 ounces diced ham, crumbled sausage, or firm organic tofu, crumbled
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/3 cup pine nuts or almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup shredded cheese
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Grease a 10-inch round baking dish (or equivalent) with a bit of olive oil.
  2. In a large bowl combine the rice, spinach, and protein. Stir in the onions and pine nuts (reserving a few for garnish) and olive oil. Now stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, and salt. Fold the eggs into the rice mixture, pour into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until the casserole is set. Garnish with remaining nuts.

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Deliciously savory and simply to prepare.  This dish is perfect to use up the bounty of spring/summer basil for the pesto recipe, but storebought pesto is just dandy.  If you don’t typically toast your pine nuts or roast your garlic for homemade pesto, I recommend trying it once.  The flavors are completely transformed.  The original recipe calls for evaporated milk in the sauce, but we didn’t have any on hand.  Would be interested to see how the sweeter milk would fare.  Next time….

Salmon Pesto Pasta, from Crumbly Cookie

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

8 ounces pasta
12 ounces salmon
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
5 ounces milk or cream or evaporated milk
1/2 cup pesto (recipe follows or use store-bought)
Additional vegetables (I used spinach and broccoli), optional
grated parmesan, optional for serving

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; stir to separate pasta. Cook pasta until al dente; drain. Pour milk into empty pot and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2. Add cooked pasta to pot and stir to combine.
  2. Ajust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Line a baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil. Season skinless side of salmon liberally with salt and pepper, sprinkle with zest, then rub with olive oil. Broil until salmon is no longer translucent and is firm when pressed, about 10 minutes. Remove from broiler and sprinkle with lemon juice. Use fork to flake into bite-sized pieces. Skin will stick to foil and can be discarded.
  3. Add salmon to pasta mixture and stir over medium heat until hot. Remove from heat and stir in basil and any vegetables, if adding.  Top with parmesan, if desired.

Pesto, adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Ingredients

Makes ½ cup

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (or substitute almonds or walnuts)
5 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed thoroughly
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, Italian (optional)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch table salt
¼ cup (½ ounce) finely grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Toast nuts in small heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.
  2. Add the unpeeled garlic to empty skillet and toast until, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool, then peel and add to food processor bowl.  (Alternately, you can also roast your garlic.)
  3. Place basil and parsley in heavy-duty, quart-size, zipper-lock bag; pound with flat side of meat pounder until all leaves are bruised.
  4. Process nuts and garlic until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients except cheese; process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down bowl with flexible spatula.
  5. Transfer mixture to small bowl, stir in cheese(s) and adjust salt. (Can be covered with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly over the surface or filmed with oil and refrigerated up to 5 days.)

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Often slathered in grease and a bit soggy by the time it hit my mouth, grilled cheese was something I always overlooked on the menu or in the cafeteria.  But one day, while walking the isles of Whole Foods with Claire, I had a hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich.  I know.  Random.

This is a cleaned-up version of the classic.  Filled with carmelized onions, shredded vegetables, and cooked “dry” with a scant amount of cooking spray, you’d think this recipe would make grilled cheese afficionados shudder.  But I promise it won’t.  It’s packed full of sweet and savory goodness.  FHE, who would shun a grilled cheese sandwich faster than I would, had two and a half.  Even if you love the classic version, give this one a try.  It gives the usual sandwich some more depth of flavor, added crunch, and a few less calories.

Vegetable Grilled Cheese

Ingredients

4 ounce(s) shredded cheese, your choice
1 cup(s) shredded zucchini or chopped spinach/kale/chard
1/2 cup(s) shredded carrot
1/2 cup sliced onions, carmelized
8 slice(s) white or whole-wheat bread

Directions

  1. To carmelize the onions, simply cook in a small skillet set over medium-low heat with 1-2 teaspoons of oil and a sprinkling of salt and sugar.  Watch the onions carefully and stir occasionally, to prevent burning.  The onions should cook down in about 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Combine cheese, zucchini, carrot, and onions in a medium bowl. Divide among 4 slices of bread and top with the remaining bread.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. (Or use cooking spray or butter spread on the bread.) Place 2 panini in the pan. Cook the panini until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, flip the panini and cook until the second side is golden, 1 to 3 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining panini.

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Usually we pair eggs with bread or potatoes, but who says rice wouldn’t be delicious?  Slightly more dense than a strata with bread, this is substantial and hearty.  Pair with a salad or extra vegetables for a complete meal.

Rice Quiche

Ingredients

2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup cheese, Cheddar or Mozarella work well
1/2 cup egg whites (or 4 whole eggs)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 ounces ham or sausage
1/2 cup skim milk
1 cup vegetables, such as frozen peas, spinach or zucchini, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 
  2. In a bowl, mix the brown rice, egg, and cheese and pour into an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients, pour onto the rice crust, and bake until the eggs are set, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing

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