Tag Archives: parmesan

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…



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


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



  • 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.


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


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

Makes about 20 balls


Baked Eggplant Italiano

This is my  version of a healthier eggplant parmigiana dish. Yes it can be done! I did not use any breadcrumbs and I didn’t fry the eggplant. That is where most of the fat and calories come from. Don’t get me wrong, I love the old-fashioned breaded and fried version of this dish but I just can’t have the extra fat and calories anymore. Plus it takes forever to fry it all! Next in line with the fat is the cheese used. I used a shredded, reduced fat 4 cheese Italian mix. It has reduced fat mozzarella, smoked provolone, Asiago and Romano cheese. It’s made with 2% milk so it has 33% less fat and 10% fewer calories than the full fat version. I broiled the slices of eggplant on a cookie sheet under the broiler and only sprayed them with olive oil cooking spray. The dish came out great. It is very filling even without all the extra bread crumbs! I really enjoy eggplant and this time I remembered to make it pretty soon after I bought it. I have a tendency to buy it and forget it’s in the refrigerator for days. Then when I go to use it, it’s all brown and spotty inside. Yuck! So this time I bought it and cooked it the next day! Remember when buying an eggplant the top crown should be green and not brown. Brown is bad, means it’s been there a while and not fresh. By the way, the leftovers are just as good as the first time too! (I started to cut the eggplant before I remembered to take a picture)


1 large eggplant

olive oil cooking spray

marinara or your choice of pasta sauce

Parmesan cheese, grated

garlic powder

2 cups reduced fat shredded Italian cheese of choice (Sargento’s 4 Italian Cheese is great)


1. Peel eggplant. Slice it lengthwise or if you prefer, round. For this recipe I sliced it lengthwise.

2. Set your oven to broil and place the rack about 4 inches under the broiler. Spray 1-2 cookie sheets with the cooking spray.

3. Place eggplant in a single layer onto cookie sheets. Spray tops of eggplant with cooking spray and sprinkle with garlic powder. Broil eggplant 4-5 minutes on each side. When you flip the eggplant spray again with cooking spray. Keep an eye on the slices as they can easily burn. They should be lightly browned on the edges and soft. Do this until all eggplant is broiled. After eggplant is done, move the rack to the middle and set your oven to 350º.

4. In a square Pyrex or other oven proof baking dish put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish. Lay eggplant slices on bottom slightly overlapping till you have one layer. It should take about 3 large slices. Next add sauce to top of eggplant and spread a thin layer over it. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and about ¼ cup of the shredded cheese. Place another layer of eggplant, again overlapping slightly. I placed this layer in the other direction to give it more stability. Again apply sauce and cheeses. Continue until you have no eggplant left. Finish with shredded cheese on top.

5. Place the dish into the 350º oven and bake until sauce is bubbling and the cheese is all melted. About 15-20 minutes should do it. Remove from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes to let the sauce set up. It’s ok if it’s a little runny. Cut and serve!

This dish is great with a nice salad on the side or even a small dish of pasta.

Serves 2-4

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!


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


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!


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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