Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cheddar Cheese and Almond Nut Balls


Have you ever bought one of those "cheese" balls from the grocery store to put out as an appetizer?  You know, the kind that has the yellow/orange processed cheese covered with some kind of suspicious waxy nuts.  If you've bought one before, don't worry I'm not judging, I used to buy them too.

It seems there are dozens of recipes for them, most calling for sour cream, butter and cream cheese.  I have wanted to make one of these for years but haven't been able to find a recipe I liked.  You see, I wanted my cheese ball to use "real" cheese.  So you have no idea how thrilled I was to find a recipe for a healthier version in the Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman.  Finally a recipe that calls for real blocks of cheese!! 


So this week I am SO proud to host this recipe for The Food Matters Project.  As you know, this is an incredible project I am involved with where over 30 talented food bloggers create recipes inspired by The Food Matters Cookbook.  I love this cookbook - it is filled with clever ways to amp up the food you cook in a healthy way that still tastes great.  Think simple, unprocessed meals that are full of vibrant fruits, vegetables, whole grains and the occasional fish/chicken/beef dishes. Bittman's simple philosophy is one I am very passionate about: eat more plants and less animals.

In true Bittman style, this recipe is full of healthy good-for-ya nuts on the outside and inside.  It replaces the "terrifying quantities of processed cheese*" for freshly grated parmesan and extra sharp white cheddar {the orginal recipe called for gorgonzola cheese but I am a true white cheddar girl at heart}.  When you are using real cheese, you can actually use less of it and still have more flavor.  Love it.  This recipe also allows you to add in all sorts of different ingredients.  Try a blue cheese, goat cheese or a spicy habanero jack cheese!   Throw in some cranberries, use different nuts, dried fruit, spinach or other vegetables... so many possibilities.  To get inspired, check out what the other bloggers from the Food Matters Project did with this recipe here.  Enjoy!

  
Ingredients

2 cups of unsalted almonds
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 ounces of freshly grated white cheddar, divided {I used Cabot's reserve aged white cheddar}
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup water
scallions or parsley for garnish, optional

Method

In a food processor, add 2 cups of almonds and pulse until very finely chopped and almost paste-like.  Add the lemon juice, cayenne pepper, parmesan, 2 ounces of cheddar, a pinch of salt and pepper and 1/2 cup water.  Process until the mixture is creamy and spreadable.  {Add a tbsp or 2 more water if the mixture seems too thick}.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour so it firms up.

what almonds look like after processing
Next, shape the mixture into 2 large balls.  In a shallow dish, combine the remaining ounce of cheddar with 1/2 cup slivered almonds.  Roll each ball in the mixture, evenly coating the surface.  Serve with crackers, a whole wheat batard or crudit├ęs! Give this a shot next time you are entertaining! 


 *quoted directly from the Food Matters Cookbook, hilarious right?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kitchen Daily & a Contest


Guess what??  I have exciting news!  Cheese Please has teamed up with Kitchen Daily as part of their curator network.  That means in addition to all sorts of cooking tips, recipes and menu inspirations you'll also be able to find certain Cheese Please recipes along with other great content.  I am so thrilled to be able to be involved with such a great site.  Check it out!

I also have a great contest to share with you, my readers.  Kitchen Daily is offering you the opportunity to win groceries for an entire year with their What's on Your Menu contest.  So amazing!!  All you need to do is enter your best orginal breakfast, lunch or dinner recipe.  A winner will be chosen from each category.  Submissions and voting need to be completed by October 5th.  Good Luck!!!!!!!!  Let me know if you enter and I'll vote for you!!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fresh Tomato Basil Bisque


I think pretty much everywhere in the country now tomatoes are bountiful.  The problem is, for most places, tomato season ends quick.  Once day the markets have ripe, luscious, bright red tomatoes and then all of a sudden, none.  That is when I realize summer is really over.   Not back to school, not a new month on the calendar, nor the celebration of Labor Day.  Just the absence of tomatoes!

So I highly urge you to stop what your doing and go out an buy some local tomatoes.  Now.  Because they will gone before we know it!  And one of the best ways to use those tomatoes is to make a fresh tomato basil soup. The best part of this soup is that it freezes really well.   You'll be able to enjoy the taste of ripe, luscious tomatoes for the months to come!


This version of tomato basil bisque is special because it is super healthy and very low calorie.  No heavy cream, butter or half and half are needed.  The base of the soup is simply fat-free chicken stock {I always go organic}. Fresh tomatoes, sweet vidalia onion, a tiny bit of garlic and roughly chopped fresh basil are added.  Top the bisque off with a bit of parmesan if you dare :)  Make this before the tomatoes disappear where you live!

  
Ingredients

3 large local tomatoes, diced
1 cup of vidalia onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
32 oz chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of red pepper
parmesan for topping

Method

In a large sauce pot heat 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil  and 1 tbsp of garlic over medium-low heat.  Brown the onions until the begin to become translucent (about 3-4 minutes).  Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and basil.  Season with salt, pepper and red pepper.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blend soup in the pot to a smooth texture.  (If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer soup to a blender one ladel at a time). 

Serve warm with parmesan cheese.  Make a double batch so you'll be sure to have leftovers and store them in ziploc bags in your freezer!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Whole Wheat Cous Cous Salad


I have been eating a boat-load of quinoa lately.  Ever go through stages like that?  I love, love, love it, but I decided that it was time to change things up and use something slightly different.... whole wheat cous cous!  I know, I'm getting wild!

Over the weekend we headed up north to stay at our friends lake house.  I love weekends at a lake, it is so fun to be out on the boat, the water is so refreshing and it feels so good to be out in the sun.  While we were out boating a friend and I were deep in conversation over quinoa.  {Obviously, what else would you talk about while boating?}  She told me about a recipe that she uses all the time and I had to try it.  This is my version, but with whole wheat cous cous.

Whole wheat cous cous is actually a very easy ingredient to use - it cooks in only 5 minutes.  The same as regular cous cous.  The only difference is the healthy whole grains.  Well, technically cous cous is actually a very tiny pasta, but it still works extremely well for a side dish or the base of a salad like this one!
 

For this salad I used heirloom cherry tomatoes from the farmers market.  Not only are they so pretty to look at and they taste almost sweet.  Crunchy english cucumbers are added with salty feta cheese.  A little bit of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and parsley tie the dish together.  Don't skip the parsely!! It definitely adds a lot to the dish.   I found the dish to taste the best cold, though I also think it works at room temperature.  Overall, this salad is perfect on it's own for lunch, or as a side dish at dinner.  Do you have a favorite whole grain dish?  I'd love to hear about it!

Ingredients

1 cup of uncooked whole wheat cous cous
1/2 of an english cucumber, peeled, sliced and quartered
1 cup of heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
3 tbsp of chopped parsley
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Method

In a medium sauce pot, combine 1 cup of whole wheat cous cous with 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat.  Let sit for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.  If serving right away chill cous cous in the freezer, or let it come to room temperature.

In a large glass bowl, combine chilled cous cous, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and feta cheese.  Mix together.  Lastly, add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Give everything a final toss.  The great thing about this salad is it is still versitile - you can make this ahead of time, make a big batch for lunches, or eat right away!  Enjoy!

This recipe is also a contribution to the Food Matters Project!  This week, Sarah from Simply Whole Kitchen hosted Quinoa Tabbouleh.  Since I am on a quinoa overload, this is my take :)  Check out what other bloggers did here.