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Garlic Cheese Bites

Let me just start off by saying that if you don’t like garlic (you know who you are) then stop reading right here. This recipe is not for the faint of heart when it comes to garlic overload. I’m not joking so beware!! AND if you are lactose intolerant, take a pill or something if you want to eat these. LOTS of cheese. You’ve been warned…

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I found this recipe one day while on the King’s Hawaiian recipe pages. I did stick to it pretty closely but I think next time I will make a change to see if it makes a difference. The recipe calls for using the little fresh mozzarella balls. But I think I will try just cutting up a block of mozzarella into cubes of the same size and trying that. I LOVE the fresh mozzarella but I think it’s too delicate and melts too much for this. The original recipe (Cheesy Garlic Bites) comes from a great site called Zestuous. I did follow the recipe very closely except for the amount of garlic, which is odd for me! NOT! One of the ingredients is for buttermilk biscuits (in the can) and it’s VERY important to use the regular kind, NOT FLAKY. Another very important tidbit is to make sure when the dough balls are placed into the muffin pan they are placed open side UP. As I found out with a few that got turned around, all the cheese will ooze out into the pan. Still tastes good but not very appealing.IMG_4057IMG_4058

INGREDIENTS:

2 cans (any brand) buttermilk biscuits (not the flaky kind)

20 cherry-size balls of fresh mozzarella or regular mozzarella cut into cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 cloves garlic, minced (use less if it’s too much for you)

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup white wine

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese (any kind)

salt and basil to taste

mini muffin tins

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  • Open the can of biscuits and flatten each biscuit. 
  • Drain the liquid from the fresh mozzarella if you’re using fresh and place a ball in the center of the dough forming a ball around it. IMG_4046
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, adding the butter and stir until completely melted.
  • Slowly pour in the white wine and salt and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. IMG_4049
  • Carefully roll the dough balls into the garlic-wine-butter mixture.IMG_4050
  • Carefully place the balls in a mini muffin pan, OPEN SIDE UP!! Trust me!IMG_4051
  • Combine the shredded mozzarella/parmesan cheese and pile on top of each ball.

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  • Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with the leftover garlic butter.

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  • Sprinkle with salt and basil to taste. Serve warm!

Makes about 20 balls

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Hot Shrimp Scampi Spinach Dip

I have now made this dip twice. It is beyond incredible! Creamy, garlicky, cheesy, rich and loaded with shrimp. If there is anything left over you can use it as a topping on baked fish as well, which I did! Still incredible. If you don’t like shrimp or garlic stay away. Once you start eating this you can’t stop either so be prepared. The first time I made it we had a friend over for cocktails and snacks, this friend is a chef by the way. He was blown away by it. So it’s officially my new dip. It is best served with tortilla chips or pita chips. Even thin crostini would be great or crackers. I used greek yogurt cream cheese the first time I made it. It’s a mix of greek yogurt with cream cheese and fewer calories than regular cream cheese. But it’s just as good with regular cream cheese which I used the 2nd time. The recipe also calls for a shallot, which I didn’t have the first time I made it so I used 1/2 of a Vidalia sweet onion. I also used light mayonnaise but feel free to use regular.

Give this recipe a try, you won’t be disappointed!

Hot Shrimp Scampi Spinach Dip

Hot Shrimp Scampi Spinach Dip

INGREDIENTS:

1 8 oz. package cream cheese of choice (cut up into cubes)

10-12 oz. medium cooked shrimp, chopped into chunks. (2-3 chunks per shrimp)

2 cups fresh spinach leaves roughly chopped

2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese (feel free to use more cheese also)

1/3 cup light mayonnaise

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon minced garlic (more if you like a lot of garlic!)

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Basil leaf for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Toss in the shrimp, spinach, shallot, and garlic.

Stir gently until the shallot is translucent and the spinach is wilted. This should take about 5 minutes, making sure all the ingredients are heated through.

Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice.

Transfer the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise, 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese and the cream cheese and mix well.

Put mixture into a baking dish large enough to hold it all. 8×8 or larger. Anything is good as long as it’s large enough to hold it all. Sprinkle the rest of the parmesan cheese on top and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes. The top should be lightly browned and bubbling.

Garnish with a basil leave. Serve hot/warm!

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Slow Cooker Cheesy Enchilada Soup

I keep talking the talk about my slow cooker but I hardly use it. So this past weekend I finally did.

Though I have to remember to start it early in the day, not at the end of the day. Either way, we had this soup twice during the week. It was delicious! So simple too.

I got the recipe from a fellow blogger Reeni. She has a great blog and I make quite a few of her recipes. Check out the original recipe at Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice.  I changed a few things but it still came out awesome.

I can’t wait to make it again when the weather here in Florida finally cools down for more than a day. Don’t be afraid of your slow cooker. I honestly use to only use it to warm wine for Mulled Wine!  But I’m experimenting more and plan on using it more and more. And this recipe is pretty healthy for you as well! Lots of fiber and protein! 

Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large sweet or Vidalia onion, diced

1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (11 ounce) Rotel diced tomatoes & green chiles

4 cups low-sodium/low-fat chicken broth

1 ¼ pounds boneless chicken breasts

2 cups corn (15-16 ounce can is good)

1 can black beans (15 ounces or so)

1 tablespoon chile powder

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon oregano

2 cups shredded cheese of choice (I used Great Value’s Fiesta Mix)

1 cup light sour cream, plus more for serving

sliced avocado for garnish (this is delicious by the way, I was skeptical at first but happy with the results!)

Tortilla chips for serving if desired.

Coarse salt and pepper 

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a medium skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers and garlic. Season with salt/pepper. Cook this until everything is softened, about 10-15 minutes.

2. While that is softening add to the crock-pot the Rotel tomatoes, chicken broth, chicken, corn, black beans, chile powder, cumin, oregano and 1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher is good) and about ½ teaspoon of black pepper.

3. When the onions, garlic and peppers are softened add to the crock-pot and mix it all up thoroughly. Cook on high for 3-4 hours (this is what I did because I started late in the day) or 5-6 on low. Remove the chicken breasts to a cutting board and shred or cut into small pieces. I shredded mine. Add the sour cream and cheese to the pot and mix well. Add the chicken back to the pot. Cook 1 more hour on low heat.

4. Serve same day or next day. We had it the next night and it really gave the flavors time to grow. Garnish with more cheese, sour cream and avocado, or chips. 

Leftovers are even better! Love this soup!

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Cheesy Zucchini Soup

Last night I made a wonderful delicious soup for the first time. I want to thank fellow blogger Reeni for the inspiration. She posted the original recipe on her blog Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice and I just had to make it myself. I did change it a bit because I didn’t have the exact ingredients on hand. It still came out incredibly delicious. I was sweating like crazy making this last night, it is Florida and still 80 degrees or so right now, but I kept at it. The recipe is pretty easy, but it does take time cutting up all the stuff. Oh how I wish I had a sous chef of my own to do all that for me!

The original recipe I had called for vegetable broth. I had chicken broth and beef broth. I used chicken broth. It also called for a carrot. Didn’t have any, so didn’t use it. The recipe also called for ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese OR 1 cup of shredded cheddar, swiss or pepper jack. I couldn’t decide so I used ½ cup Parmesan cheese and ½ cup shredded cheddar! Same thing with the herbs. It originally called for 1 teaspoon dried thyme or basil. I used ½ teaspoon of each. And the one final change or should I say suggestion that I left out was adding ½ cup of half-and-half or heavy cream. The soup didn’t need it and I didn’t need the extra calories! I’d say the recipe makes about 6 nice servings. I had two bowls and my husband had three! There is even enough for another bowl left over! So it’s a keeper! Please check out the original recipe on Reeni’s blog at  Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice! Mangia!

INGREDIENTS:

Olive Oil, about 3 tablespoons

1 large Vidalia or yellow onion, diced (I used Vidalia)

1 large carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

4-6 cloves garlic, (I used at least 6

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

2 large zucchini (I used 1 large and 2 small)

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup shredded cheddar, swiss, pepper jack or any other cheese of your choice

½ cup half-and-half or heavy cream, optional

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery, sauté until tender, about 5-10 minutes. (I cooked it for 10 minutes) Stir often. Add the garlic and sauté until you smell its wonderful aroma.

  2. Add the thyme and basil. Season well with salt and pepper.

  3. Meanwhile peel and dice 1½ of the zucchini (I used 2½). It should be about 5 coups. Shred the rest of the zucchini on the large holes of a grater and set aside.

  4. Add the diced zucchini to the pan and mix well, cooking for about 3-4 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes.

  5. Turn off the heat and purée the soup using an immersion blender. Careful of hot splatters with this! If you don’t have one carefully transfer the soup in batches to a blender and purée in batches. Return to pan if you used this method.

  6. Once the soup is pureed add the shredded zucchini and the cheese. (You can add the half-and-half here if you wish) Stir well.

  7. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Makes 4-6 servings

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Garlic Cheese Grits and Shrimp

So for the next four days my husband and I are heading to Charleston, SC. I thought I’d look up some local recipes and adapt them to my cooking style. I have heard so much about their shrimp and grits so I figured I’d start there. My husband loves grits (he should marry them!) and I like them. We both like shrimp and garlic so this recipe seemed like a no-brainer. I haven’t made it yet but I do plan to once we get back from our trip. I am going to definitely try it while up there though! The original recipe called for 6 ounces of garlic flavored processed cheese. I am going to be using 8 wedges of Laughing Cow Light Garlic & Herb cheese. Fewer calories for sure and still with all the flavor. I would also use fat-free chicken broth instead of water when cooking the grits. Again, more flavor!


INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup uncooked grits

6 ounces Laughing Cow Light Garlic & Herb cheese (8 wedges)

pinch of cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons butter (or butter substitute)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tomato, diced

2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ lemon, juiced

salt to taste


DIRECTIONS:

1. Cook grits according to package directions. Stir in the Laughing Cow cheese and cayenne pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic and tomato until tomato begins to soften. Stir in shrimp and lemon juice. Saute until shrimp are pink. Season with salt to taste.

3. Spread warm grits on a serving platter and pour shrimp mixture on top.

Serves 4

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Italian Sauces (Part 1)

When most people think of Italian sauces they usually think of the tomato sauce, marinara sauce, alfredo sauce and probably white clam sauce. But there are so many more sauces out there  that are all wonderful in their own way. Growing up in my house my mother used to serve us a quick spaghetti meal we called Aiole. It was a basic olive oil and garlic sauce. Simple and fast and it was delicious. I am going to go through most of the basic sauces out there and hopefully put in some pictures so you know what they look like. I will have the second half of them next week so keep an eye open for them!

ALFREDO: Alfredo sauce is rich with heavy cream, butter, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It is best known when used with fettuccine. Love the sauce, hate the fat and calories! A luxury I must have every so often. You don’t have to limit it to fettuccine either, use it on any kind of pasta you want. Usually the heavier pastas do best. Throw some chicken or shrimp in there as well and it gets even better!

Fettuccine Alfredo

AGLIO E OLIO: This is a traditional Italian sauce (it’s what we called Aiole) that can be made on a budget. This is probably why we had it so often. It is said to have originated in the isolated region of Abruzzo but it is popular everywhere in Italy. It is usually served with spaghetti (that’s how we had it) and the sauce is made by lightly sautéing minced or pressed garlic in olive oil, sometimes adding dried red pepper flakes. You can also add finely chopped fresh parsley and parmesan cheese.

Aglio e Olio

ARRABBIATA: Arrabbiata is Italian for “angry”. This is a zesty tomato based sauce that gets its heat from chili peppers. It is basically a Roman sauce of garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. Basil is used sometimes though most chefs in Italy don’t use it. This dish is usually served with pasta and chopped fresh parsley sprinkled on top.

Spaghetti Arrabbiata

BOLOGNESE: Bolognese sauce is a robust meat sauce also known as ragù (no not the jar sauce!). It is a hearty sauce with ground beef or pork, pancetta, tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and celery. The sauce is sometimes enhanced by adding a little bit of wine, cream and seasoning. This sauce originated in Bologna, Italy where the natives traditionally serve it with freshly made tagliatelle and their traditionally green lasagna. Spaghetti alla Bolognese is a form that is popular outside of Italy which consists of a meat sauce served on a bed of spaghetti with a good sprinkling of grated Parmigiano cheese. What is really funny about this version is that it never really existed in Bologna, where the sauce is always served with tagliatelle or lasagna (egg pastas). Spaghetti is a durum wheat pasta from Naples.

Spaghetti Bolognese

CARBONARA: Carbonara is another popular sauce that is usually made with eggs, cream, Parmesan cheese and bits of bacon. Many times this sauce also has green peas in it as well. Usually served with spaghetti it is also used on fettuccine, rigatoni or bucatini. Recipes vary but all agree that cheese, eggs, cured fatty pork (pancetta) and black pepper are basic. Origins of this dish are obscure and it has many legends about it. It was created in the middle of the 20th century so it’s not that old as far as sauces go.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

CLAM SAUCE: The most popular clam sauce is the white version. Usually served with linguine this popular sauce has minced clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and parsley. There is also a thin tomato sauce with minced clams. You don’t usually see this recipe on menus much. Some versions use whole clams and hot pepper flakes.

Linguine with Clam Sauce

GENOVESE/PESTO: I don’t think I’ve ever really heard of a Genovese sauce before. Most of us know this sauce as Pesto. The name means it originates from Genoa (imagine that!), which is a coastal city in NW Italy. Genovese/Pesto sauce is an uncooked sauce traditionally made of fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil. It didn’t really become popular in North America until the 1980s and 1990s.

Fettuccine with Pesto Sauce

GREMOLATA: Ok here is another sauce I never heard of anywhere. It is more of a chopped herb condiment. It’s typically made of garlic, parsley, and lemon zest. Traditionally it’s used as an accompaniment to the Italian classic Osso Buco (braised veal shank). The citrus element in this actually makes it a great addition to seafood dishes as well!

Gremolata Sauce

MARINARA: This is the classic Italian tomato sauce. It’s seasoned with onions, garlic and oregano, and basil. It’s a favorite on pasta, pizza and meats. This is another sauce that has many variations. Some of them even call for adding capers, olives and spices. Italians refer to marinara only in association with other recipes. Spaghetti alla marinara literally translates to mariner’s spaghetti. However, tomato sauce is called salsa al pomodoro which includes marinara sauce as well as other tomato-based sauce. Marinara sauce was invented by cooks aboard Neapolitan ships in the mid-1500s after the Spaniards introduced the tomato (a New World vegetable) to Europe! This is a very easy sauce to make and it resists spoiling due to the high acid content of the tomatoes. This is why it was ideal for lengthy sea voyages hundreds of years before we had refrigeration! This sauce is great on so many pastas as well as chicken, pork, veal, fish, you name it!

Ravioli Marinara

MORE SAUCES NEXT SUNDAY!!

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The Italian Kitchen (Part 3)

Today’s post is all about what should be in an Italian Pantry.  By stocking your kitchen with a few basic ingredients you’ll be ready to prepare most Italian and Tuscan recipes. Our supermarkets are much better at carrying the ingredients than they used to be. But if there’s still something you can’t find, there’s always the “pork store.” You know the place, it always smells so good when you walk by. Basically any Italian specialty store will have anything you need. Remember, using high-quality ingredients at the best price you can get them at is crucial. The better the olive oil, tomatoes and cheese, the better the simple dishes will taste!

This list is just a basic list of what is found in most good Italian kitchens.

Olive Oil: An essential in Italian cooking. Stick with extra-virgin olive oil for most recipes.

Dried Pasta: Use pasta imported from Italy such as Barilla and DeCecco. For the most part any imported pasta products made from semolina flour are good choices. For egg pasta, stay away from the so-called “fresh” pasta sold in refrigerated cases. They aren’t so “fresh” as they would have you believe. Either use homemade or buy the dried noodles packaged in nests.

Tomatoes: When fresh, ripe tomatoes are not available, use good canned tomatoes (unless recipe specifically calls for fresh). Choose whole, peeled tomatoes rather than chopped or crushed. Imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes are the best if you can find them.

Onions and Garlic: Generally, white or yellow onions for cooking and red onions for salads and dishes that do not need cooking because they are milder. Garlic should not be an overwhelming presence.

Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese: Expensive but worth it. Excellent grating cheese as well as a table cheese. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil over it and have it with some crusty Italian bread.

Cheeses: Cheeses are very important for Italian dishes. The basics like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, mozzarella, ricotta, and provolone are a good choice to have around.

Legumes (beans): Dried cannelini beans, lentils and ceci (Garbanzo/chick peas) are always good to have on hand. Canned beans work just as well especially if you’re in a rush.

Cornmeal: Use a medium textured cornmeal for polenta. Keep it in a tightly closed container and it will last for months. It’s also good for dusting the pan when making pizza.

Rice: Arborio is the most common in making risotto but others are used as well.

Balsamic Vinegar: There are many different balsamic vinegars. Depending on its age, it can be very expensive. You can use the inexpensive  one for salads as long as the quality is good.

Anchovies: (I love these salty little buggers!)It’s good to keep a jar of these in the fridge to add a special zip to certain dishes. You can also find anchovy paste in a tube, which is milder in taste and very convenient to have. (I use the tube)

Dried Porcini Mushrooms: Look for packages that have slices of whole mushrooms. They can be a little expensive but a little goes a long way. Keep it in an airtight container and they’ll keep for a long time. If you rehydrate them, keep the water, strain it and use it to add some flavor and depth to soups, sauces and stews.

Capers: (My husband’s favorite) You can find two kinds of capers. The smaller ones that are pickled in vinegar, and the larger ones that come packed in salt. The larger ones are very flavorful and need rinsing of the salt before using. They are also harder to find. A few chopped capers can add a nice flavor addition to dishes that seem to need just a little something.

Olives: Both black and green varieties are good. If they are packed in brine and imported from Italy, even better. We like the stuffed ones. Stuffed with bleu cheese, anchovies, garlic, peppers…

Herbs and Seasonings: For the most part fresh herbs are preferred in everyday cooking, but this is hard to do and they are generally more expensive and can go bad quickly if not used. So always keep on hand dried herbs and seasonings. Keep dried oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage. I also always keep garlic powder on hand. Whole black pepper to be ground at the moment of use, sea salt and red pepper flakes are also important to have in your pantry.

Flour: All-purpose flour is good to use for making pasta and pizza dough. Bread flour for cakes and semolina flour for pasta is also very useful.


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The Italian Kitchen (Part 1)

Italian cooking is one of the most popular types of cooking around. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like some kind of Italian food. I love pasta in any shape or form. Ravioli has to be my favorite though. From the sauces to cheeses to herbs to wines to olive oil it seems  almost too much to comprehend at times. Everyone knows the basics like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, baked ziti, ravioli, chicken parmigiana, veal parmigiana, eggplant parmigiana. And the desserts! My favorite of all time is tiramisu. It’s very hard to find authentic tiramisu. Most restaurants try but don’t come close. The best tiramisu I’ve ever had was actually in Montreal, Canada of all places. Go figure. And of course everyone loves cannolis! I’m getting hungry just thinking about them!

Ok, to start our little journey today I am going to start with a glossary of Italian cheeses. I love cheese. Growing up we always had ‘stinky’ cheese or really sharp provolone. Really sharp provolone is hard to find these days. Another staple in our house growing up was Locatelli Romano cheese. No green can that you keep in the cabinet in my house! On to the cheese! Remember this is just a basic list. There are actually hundreds of different Italian cheeses! But for us Americans this is a good start!

COOKING CHEESES

You can find low-fat versions of these cheeses at your local supermarket or Italian specialty store as well.

Ricotta: Ricotta cheese is usually made from cow’s milk, though it can also be made from sheep’s milk, which has more flavor. The one made from sheep’s milk is not readily available in the United States so you’ll probably always be buying the cow’s milk version. Ricotta is usually a bit grainy in texture with a mild sweet flavor. Depending on whether the milk used in making the cheese was whole or skim, the fat content of ½ cup (4 ounces) ranges from 0-15 grams. FYI: When fresh Ricotta goes through its natural aging process, a hard, pungent cheese, suitable for eating or grating results. This is called Ricotta Salata and is almost white in color.

Whole milk Ricotta (1 oz.): 50 calories/4 grams fat

Part-skim Ricotta (1 oz.): 40 calories/2 grams fat

Fat-Free Ricotta (1 oz.): 20 calories/0 grams fat

Mozzarella: Mozzarella is best known as a pizza topper. It is made from either cow’s milk or in Italy, from water buffalo’s milk. It is milk in flavor and can be found in low-fat varieties as well! Fresh mozzarella is a real treat. It’s made from whole milk and has a softer texture and sweeter, more delicate flavor than regular, factory made mozzarella. It has 4-7 grams of fat per ounce, depending on the fat content of the milk used to make it.

Whole Milk Mozzarella (1 oz.): 80 calories/6 grams fat

Part-skim Mozzarella (1 oz.): 72 calories/5 grams fat

GRATING CHEESES

No Italian meal is complete without freshly grated cheese. Or in my house it’s any meal, not just Italian meals. We like it to snow on our food!

Pecorino: This is made from sheep’s milk and the flavor of pecorino will depend on the area where it was made in Italy. It ranges from a firm, sharp, salty cheese to a milder, semi-firm variety. It has about 110 calories and 7-8 grams of fat per ounce. Locatelli is a pecorino romano cheese and the choice at my house. Has been since forever!

Pecorino Romano: Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s milk. It is straw-white in color and has a sharper flavor than the other cheeses listed here. Although it is sometimes called “Locatelli” Locatelli is a brand name of Pecorino Romano. Pecora in Italian means sheep and Pecorino Romano is one of Italy’s oldest cheeses. Legend has it that a shepherd filled his flask with sheep’s milk before a long trip and the motion during the trip caused the milk to naturally ferment. The idea for a new cheese was born. Today most Pecorino is made in Sardina Italy. With its fine flavor Pecorino’s popularity as a grating cheese has grown significantly in the U.S. Since sheep only give milk for 6-7 months a year all production must satisfy the public’s demand for the entire year.

Parmesan Cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the Ritz of parmesan cheeses! It is an aged hard cheese made from cow’s milk and is strictly regulated in Italy. This is to control the quality. In the U.S., this cheese is often limited, but the results are different from the Italian cheese. Older, aged varieties from Italy have a stronger flavor and are drier. Stick to freshly grated aged varieties for the most flavor. You’ll be able to use less due to the more intense flavor. It has about 110 calories and 7 grams of fat per ounce. Parmigiano-Reggiano is also very expensive. I have found excellent varieties at a few places, such as BJ’s. The price is still high but a little less painful. Same goes for the Pecorino cheese. In Italy it is so valuable that trucks carrying a load of Parmigiano have been hijacked at gunpoint!

TABLE CHEESES

Asiago Cheese: Asiago is made from cow’s milk. It’s a semi-hard to hard cheese. (My cat Gus loves it! Really!) It is full of many time holes and has a rich flavor and creamy texture when it hasn’t been aged for very long. As it ages, the cheese becomes firmer and can be grated easily. It can also be eaten by itself. It’s similar in fat content to Parmesan cheese. Asiago is from the Veneto region.

Fontina: This is a delicious delicate, sweet, semi-soft cheese with a nutty flavor. It’s also made from cow’s milk and melts easily and smoothly. The more aged the cheese, the richer the flavor. One ounce has about 110 calories and 9 grams of fat.

Gorgonzola: Gorgonzola is a blue-veined cheese made from cow’s milk and has a creamy texture with a slightly pungent, rich flavor. When aged for more than six months, the flavor can become very strong. It’s a great match with fruit, such as apples or pears. It also can be melted into sauces or crumbled over salads. For a milder variety, look for torta di Gorgonzola. This layers Gorgonzola with sweet marscapone. Gorgonzola has about 100 calories and 8 grams of fat per ounce.

Marscapone: Marscapone is super-rich and  tastes like a cross between cream cheese and whipped butter. It’s usually used in desserts but it’s also great as a spread for delicate crackers or fresh fruit, such as strawberries and pear slices. It’s a soft cheese made from cow’s milk and has about 124 calories and 13 grams of fat per ounce. Not exactly a cheese for diets!

Provolone: Provolone is another cow’s milk cheese. It is delicate and creamy when aged for up to two months. When it’s aged longer it begins to take on a spicy, sharp flavor. Most people use provolone as a table cheese with crackers, pepperoni, apples etc. but it’s also an excellent cooking cheese. Aged provolone can be used for grating. One ounce has about 100 calories and 8 grams of fat.


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Crustless Dinner Quiche

This is a very filling dish which is great for leftovers as breakfast the next day! I use most of the same ingredients each time though I will switch sometimes depending on what I have on hand. I always add spinach but I will vary if I put in chicken, shrimp, scallops, sausage. And you will not even miss the crust! It comes out almost like a Quiche casserole. It’s always a good “go to” dinner if you can’t figure out what to make. It’s easy and actually good for you! I usually use egg beaters (plain or flavored) and fat-free half-and-half. Feel free to use real eggs and milk if you want the full fat version. Make sure also with any of the high water content foods like the spinach and shrimp to get as much water out of them as possible.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup EggBeaters (or any egg substitute)

1 cup fat-free half-and-half (or 2% milk)

1 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon dill

1 teaspoon basil

2 teaspoons parsley

1 cup salad shrimp, thawed and drained well (or enough cooked chopped shrimp to make a cup)

2 pre-cooked chicken sausages, roughly chopped (any flavor you like)

few dashes hot sauce

1 ½ cups shredded 2% cheese of your choice (I usually use cheddar)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Combine all ingredients except for ½ cup of the shredded cheese, in a large bowl. Mix well.

2. Pour into a round deep dish baking pan. I use a 10″ round which is about 2″ deep. It has to be deep enough to hold all of the mixture. Sprinkle the ½ cup of shredded cheese over the top.

3. Bake at 350º for about 45 minutes. The top will puff up and then settle when you take it out of the oven. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes. Cut it up and serve!

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Rachael Ray

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