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Free-for-All Friday: Cheez-Its

Today’s post was supposed to be about my adventures in pasta making, but that’s going to wait until next week (Virtual apology to Stacy Z. over in Sweden!)

The reason why pasta is being put on hold is because I experienced something this week. I think it’s called nirvana, but I can’t be sure since my dictionary is M.I.A. (missing in action, not the entertainer who loves flipping the bird).

Anyway, you know how thankful I am for Pinterest, right? Well, I came across a homemade Cheez-It pin, went to the original blog where it was posted and thought, “I can, like, totally do this!” My thoughts are all in Valley-girl dialect. I don’t make the rules.

My friend Kate volunteered to be taste-tester and fellow Cheez-It maker, so on Monday, we used her awesome kitchen (check out the granite counter tops below) and made Cheez-Its. From scratch. And they.were.nirvana.

Color Me Cheezy

Everyone loves Cheez-Its right? Everyone else here can finish off a box in one sitting? Everyone reading this also loves licking their fingers after eating the white cheddar ones? Ok, whew!

Here’s the blog where the recipe I used came from. It’s a guest post from this woman. I’d love it if you paid her a visit to find out how to make these tasty squares.

Kate and I both have an aggressive affinity for white cheddar cheez-its. Like, if there’s a box hidden in the room, we can sniff it out. And fight to the death à la Hunger Games for it. So we used aged white cheddar cheese with a bit of regular sharp cheddar thrown in.

After you combine all your ingredients, which are really just cheese, flour, butter and milk, you roll out the dough and cut some 1×1 inch squares.

Notice my lack of experience in rolling dough...

Trying to be precise

Starting to look like cheez-its

Kate punched cute little holes in the center with a skewer and then we baked them.

This is after we flipped them over

We flipped them, hoping to brown them a little on top.

The first batched looked beautiful. But they were more like a flaky, puffy biscuit than a crunchy cracker used for after-school snacks…

B-e-a-utiful

So we burned the next batch.

Still tasty

And it was an accidental triumph. You know when you reach in the Cheez-It box and happen to pull out a slightly browned Cheez-It and you eat it as quickly as humanly possible so the person you’re eating Cheez-Its with doesn’t see it and steal it? Well, it’s like we made a whole batch of those ones so everyone could get in on the action.

Are you guys swooning yet? The first one Kate tried, she tasted it, nodded her head with a smile and said “Cheez-It!”

Make a batch (no, make 4) this weekend. They’re super, super easy and twice as yummy. Plus, no preservatives.

Only downside is, there’s no cheese dust to lick off your fingers.

And for your weekend pleasure:

This is well-behaved Wayne, Kate's dog, who helped us make cheez-its. Isn't he delicious?!

Meatless Monday: Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

It’s soup season! I can finally make a big pot of hot, delicious soup without feeling too pathetic. I skipped my usual “throw-everything-in-a-pot-and-see-how-it-tastes” recipes and made a soup from my favorite cooking Bible, Fine Cooking.

My might-as-well-be-mother-in-law made a variation of this broccoli soup the same day and I made its partner, cauliflower soup. That’s right, Sunday’s Sneak Peek was Cheddar Cauliflower Soup, courtesy Fine Cooking’s Feb/March issue from 2009.


Pin It

It’s delicious, creamy, sinful and substantial. Serve it with some crusty bread or garlic croutons on top and no one will even complain that their meal is lacking in the meat department. (coughboyscough). Enjoy.

*Note: The recipe below is exactly how it is in the magazine. Read through the whole thing, then check out what tweaks I made to my soup at the bottom.

Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

Gather Them Up

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 head cauliflower (about 1 lb) cored and cut into 1 1/2 inch florets
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, small diced
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. packed, ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 cups grated sharp white cheddar (about 14-oz)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Throw It In the Pot

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the cauliflower until tender, about 4 minutes.
  2. Drain and let cool slightly. Trim the stems from 18 of the cauliflower pieces and cut the crowns into mini florets about 1/2 inch wide; set aside.
  3. Reserve the trimmed stems with the remaining larger pieces.
  4. Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium low heat. Add the onion and 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10-12 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and cook until the aroma subsides, 2-3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium, add the flour, nutmeg and cayenne and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  6. Whisk in the broth, cream and 2 cups water. Add thyme and bring to a simmer.
  7. Stir in the cheese until melted and summer for 5 minutes to develop flavors.
  8. Remove and discard the thyme stems and stir in the larger cauliflower pieces and reserved stems. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender.
  9. Return the soup to the pot, season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  10. Add the mini cauliflower florets and reheat gently before serving.

My variation:

  • I reserved 2 cups of the water I boiled the cauliflower in to add to the soup later, when water is called for.
  • I skipped the whole “trim 18 of the florets and reserve the stems” thing. I simply saved a few of the smaller pieces I had originally cut and boiled and added them at the end, after pureeing.
  • Speaking of pureeing, I also decided to forgo the whole blender thing and use my cherished hand blender instead. Much, much easier (and cleaner!)
  • I used a pinch of dried thyme instead of fresh, only because I had none on me.
  • I added crushed red pepper, a sprinkling of parsley and a quick drizzle of olive oil to finish everything off.
  • Use vegetable broth instead of chicken to make this truly vegetarian
  • I used 3 cups of white cheddar and one of regular sharp cheddar.

Meatless Monday: When Smoky Met Scalloped

I haven’t written a real post in quite a while. My days are busy and spent staring at the computer screen for hours on end and the last thing I want to do after I’m done making dinner is stare at the screen some more. And that’s assuming I take pictures of the food I make for dinner!

Anyway, I’m trying something new this week. Creating a theme for everyday posts just for you—my five readers! Today we’re back with Meatless Monday (remember when we had some adventures in tofu a while back?) Tonight’s recipe is for the potato and cheese lovers.

I stole this recipe from Food Network (I’ve bashed the magazine before for its inconsistency in recipes). Their recipes seem to be hit or miss and I’m happy to report that this one is a definite hit.

Smoky Scalloped Potatoes

It takes a while to make—almost two hours from start to finish—so plan accordingly. I recommend getting a mandoline to slice the taters on. I’ve done this by hand and by nifty slicer and the mandoline saves so much time and makes everything even.

Pair this cheesy dish with a big salad. Go the Greek route, the Caesar route, or make a sweet/savory salad with pears, gorgonzola, craisins, walnuts and a honey dressing.

Smoky Scalloped Potatoes from Food Network Magazine, November 2011 Issue.

What You Need

  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1-2 tsp. smoked paprika (I played it safe and used 1)
  • 2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

What You Do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 Tbsp. butter.
  3. Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan. Once the butter foams, add the shallot and garlic and saute until softened–about 5 minutes.

    Does anything smell better than shallots and garlic cooking in butter? Me thinks not.

  4. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the half-and-half, smoked paprika and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

    Simmer down!

  6. Carefully pour half the potato mixture into the buttered baking dish. Shake the pan to arrange the taters in a single layer.
  7. Sprinkle half of each cheese on top of the layer, then add the remaining potatoes and shake again to arrange in a layer. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on the top of that layer.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  9. Remove the foil and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes*
  10. Let stand 15 minutes before serving**

*I broiled my potatoes for the last fifteen. They weren’t getting browned enough just by baking.

**As hard as it is, you should definitely let the potatoes sit. It’s a runny mess if you don’t let them cool, first.

Anyone here love scalloped potatoes? Anyone think of seafood when they hear the word scalloped? Check out tomorrow’s new theme: Tasty Tip Tuesday!

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