Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

Fresh Bruschetta Mozzarella

I wish I could say that I’ve been harboring this recipe for years, that I’m embarrassed to be posting it only now after summers and summers of enjoyment. I wish I could say that I’ve been adding it to my menu every week of every tomato season for as long as I can remember. I wish that the glut of tomatoes that I harvested this year, the glut that caused me to try this experiment, had happened years ago.

Bruschetta Mozzarella Toasts
Well. I can say none of those things. The truth is I’ve never been a big fan of fresh tomatoes, and as such, I’ve spent my life picking them off of salads, sandwiches, and pastas. But I’ve vigilantly planted at least a couple of varieties each of the last few years in an effort to force myself into using them, and this year, the strategy paid off handsomely. It seemed wrong to take such ripe, beautiful fruits at their peak and cook them down into sauce, and the internet seemed to agree that bruschetta is a great way to feature them raw.

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Easy Stove-Top Mac and Cheese

I’m just gonna come right out and say it. When discussing cheese and pasta, sometimes one must be blunt.

I like stove-top macaroni and cheese more than baked macaroni and cheese.

This is the truth, straight from me to you.

I mean, that’s not to say I won’t consume a mound of baked mac rapidly if it’s served at a potluck, a cookout, or a picnic. And I won’t say no to a fancy mac, like this one I made last year. But the macaroni of my dreams is prepared on the stove-top: al denté, piping hot, and swimming in thin, just-a-little-bit-spicy, orange cheddar cheese sauce.

Mac and Cheese
Is this a product of being raised on the blue box? Perhaps. Is this a product of wanting my pasta so firm that it nearly crunches between the teeth, a state that is nearly impossible to achieve when baking pasta? That’s probably reading too deeply into the whole thing. Maybe I don’t like the breadcrumbs that typically accompany a baked mac? Maybe I don’t like the waiting?

One significant downside of loving so much a mysteriously created product of food science is that it can be incredibly difficult to replicate at home. What the hell is that orange powder anyway? I theorize it must be fairy dust, for I have searched for years for a mac and cheese recipe that, if not identical, could at least be a satisfactory homemade replacement to the mac and cheese of my childhood.

Friends, I HAVE FOUND IT.

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Cheddar Swirl Buns

The internet is full of food blogs, and though I’ve been a bit busy for leisurely reading lately, I read quite a few of them. I love to see what other bloggers are cooking, writing, and photographing; each one is hugely inspiring. One of my favorites — I adapt quite a few recipes from her posts — is Smitten Kitchen, crafted by the clever, snarky, and talented Deb Perelman. Her site is gorgeous, her archives well-organized, and if you’ve never taken a look, I highly recommend it. In fact, Smitten Kitchen was the first food blog I ever read, and was a major source of inspiration for me to start a food blog of my own.

Today is a special day here at 30 Pounds of Apples… it’s my two-year blogoversary! And to celebrate, I have a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook — signed by Deb Perelman herself — to give away to one of you!

Lots of tabs

Last fall, Deb’s work jumped out of the internet and onto my bookshelf when she released a cookbook. After receiving a copy as a Christmas gift from my fabulous sister, I spent quite a bit of time and many post-its paging through her book marking up recipes I wanted to try. And this one, for these luscious, savory breakfast buns, was at the top of the list.

Cooking from the book!

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Fancy breakfast

There are some foods that have always been magic to me. Tortillas, croissants, tortellini, cream puffs… those dreamy little bites that all seem borderline impossible for a person in a home kitchen to make. Incidentally, jam also mystified me. Perhaps it was really the canning part that seemed so out of reach, for until a couple years ago, I never canned my own.

I’ve learned, however, that jam is actually quite simple to make, and it doesn’t necessarily require large batches and canning. It seems you can boil together almost any fruit and have jam in a matter of minutes, ready to serve warm or to store in the fridge for many days.

This treat is a celebration of quick jam, a blend of two early harbingers of spring: strawberry and rhubarb.

Pretty little berries

While bundled stalks of rhubarb have graced the tables of the farmers market since early February, strawberries have only recently returned to the scene. Last week, a few pints of these precious red fruits have appeared between towers of broccoli and leafy greens, and just like every year, I could hardly wait to get my hands on some.

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Pizza for dinner

Brad and I sometimes grapple a bit when it comes to ordering pizza. Brad likes lots of toppings: meats, mushrooms, onions, veggies, goat cheese, herbs… and I actually like those, too. But if I ever have a choice, if I’m ever ordering pizza just for me, I get cheese. Beautiful, glorious, unadulterated cheese pizza.

But the shocking truth is that until last week, I’ve never made a cheese pizza at home. I know. I know. I can’t explain myself. I’ve been making pizza regularly now for a couple of years, but I’ve always dressed it up. It was high time I build my own perfect cheese pizza from scratch.

Making crust

This pizza started with my go-to pizza crust recipe. I have another crust that I really love, but I only make it when I have excess whey from a batch of homemade mozzarella. This recipe, on the other hand, is super-easy to whip up when you need dinner in less than an hour. It’s a no-fuss crust that requires little resting time and rolls out easily.

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Spinach, Scallion and Feta Frittata

I have a really bad habit of planning my weekends too much. I always make a list full of more than I can possibly do, gradually shifting things to later in the week as the impossibility of my plans becomes clear.

But every once in a while, one of the items on those lists turns into a relaxing, inspiring, reflective endeavor with delicious results. As with this frittata.

Breakfast!

My initial impulse to make this crowd-worthy breakfast came from a delightful alliance of ingredients currently in season. “Egg season” (yes, there is one) has begun here in the Carolinas, and every week I see more and more vendors with teetering piles of egg crates on the corners of their tables.

Eggs!

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Little appetizers

There is rarely a time when, if one is put in front of me, I will turn down a savory bite of something served on a cracker. Whether it’s cheese and fruit or creamy dips or thinly sliced cold cuts, if I lived alone and chose to appease only my deepest food-desires, I might never lift a fork to a plate of un-crackered food again.

Tray of tasty treats

These little bites grew out of a fortuitous collection of ingredients I happened to have on hand after returning home in January. A last hoorah of apples from the fall, a couple packs of crackers I didn’t use at my food-filled Christmas party, and a precious gift of maple cheddar from some dear friends who live in Wisconsin.

The stars of the show

Apple & cheddar cheese are a match made in heaven. The pairing of a sharp, creamy bit of cheese against a sweet, juicy apple would be delicious enough, all on their own, on these crisp little crackers. And I won’t lie, I’ve eaten my fair share of little bites just like that. But these little bites are more than that. The apple and cheddar are chopped into tiny little wedges and cubes with a tangy, punchy dressing.

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Party presents of cheese
Last Sunday, I threw a big ol’ festive holiday party. You may not be entirely surprised to learn that parties at my house tend to be more about the food than anything else. I decorate, sure, and put on some appropriately celebratory Pandora tunes, but mostly a party offers me a moderately justifiable excuse to try out as many recipes for fancy-pants finger food, seasonal desserts, and standard snacky favorites as I can possibly cram into the 2-3 days prior to the first guest knocking on the door. One might suspect that I throw parties primarily for my own curiosity (and, of course, my little food blog) and invite over friends merely to vacuum up the copious amounts of food I typically prepare. (Of course, dear friends, this is not the case, but when one is awake and cooking at 6am the morning of a party, one must question one’s motives.)

And there is no better time of year for party food. Whether it’s an office bash or a neighborhood block party or simply a gathering of friends and family, you can never go wrong with a table filled with edible holiday splendor. Many of the posts in the coming weeks will focus on party-ready treats that make worthy contributions to any festive spread. And what classic shall we feature today? The cheeseball!

Cheesy gifts

This isn’t just a cheeseball. This is THREE cheeseballs.  Better still: this is three cheesePRESENTS. We’re taking an already-classic holiday favorite and raising it to the tenth Christmas power. Plus, this way you don’t have to choose between your favorite cheeseball flavors… you can make them ALL!

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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it in every post since mid-September: I love fall. Everything about it… almost. That cool, brisk air and the crunchy golden leaves fluttering down like pennies in a pool are spectacular elements of the season. But they are caused, of course, by our hemisphere tipping away from the sun for the winter, and our hours of sunshine diminish rapidly. Add in our “fall back” from Daylight Savings Time, and suddenly I’m driving home from work in the dark every day for the next four months. This lack of sunshine not only lowers my energy and productivity, it also seriously cramps my food-bloggin’ style.

 

In early summer, I discovered that I had a much easier time taking photos for this site if I essentially stopped preparing food in my dismally dark kitchen. A table in our office against the window (purchased by Brad some time ago as a study station for the rare moments he wants to study at home) has now become my destination for cutting boards full of ingredients. The natural light that pours into this room is vastly superior than the peaked light fixture in the kitchen. I’ve virtually stopped photographing in my kitchen all together, save for the occasional cooking-in-the-pot action shot or rolled-out-dough-on-the-counter.

So as the days get shorter, you can pretty much guarantee that if the sun is out and I’m not at my job, I’m probably trucking ingredients back and fort between the office and the kitchen.

Now you know.

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Folks, we need to talk about mac and cheese.

Mac and cheese, when I was little, meant the blue box. Oh, beloved blue box of tiny elbows and mysterious orange powder. Then those Velveeta shells came out, and the blue box was supplanted by tiny shells and mysterious orange goo.

And they were delicious, weren’t they?

I discovered, early in my surfing of the foodie corners of the internet, that mac and cheese was something I had never really known. Baked casseroles of pasta and cheese, topped with a decadent crust of cheddar and bread crumbs, seemed to be what the foodie world wanted mac and cheese to be. And I confess! I looooove a good baked mac.

But sometimes, I just want some dang stove top cheesy pasta, creamy and without the crunch, but also without the mystery of the orange powder and goo. Is that so much to ask?

The answer is here, friends. No, this sauce isn’t a classic orange hue. It’s not a copycat recipe of the blue box. But it’s so, soooo good. And, I’m pleased to report, dreadfully easy. No tedious grating of cheese, no tempering of cream, no casserole dish required, no 45 minute bake in the oven.

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