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Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

Last night, I was thinking that I wanted to eat something really cozy and comforting for dinner, and I wanted it to include brussel sprouts.  I thought of a recipe for a savoury bread pudding that Carly recently shared with me, but I didn’t really want to use up all my eggs and milk.  Speaking of Carly and brussel sprouts, anytime brussels come up in conversation with me, Carly makes sure to let me know that she LOVES brussel sprouts, even though I am well aware of this fact because of the previous times she has emphatically told me so.  I am starting to believe that this is a ploy of hers to ensure that I always think of her when I’m having brussel sprouts; I don’t know why she desires this, but it must be true. So anyways, I didn’t want to make bread pudding, but I thought I could maybe make up a pasta casserole of sorts that would satisfy my comfort craving (“Comfort Craving” to be sung to the tune of a certain k.d. lang megahit).

A couple weeks ago, Paul and I made up a casserole with cauliflower in it, so I decided that I would build off of the basic idea of that one and transform it to have other things in it – like brussel sprouts. A lot of brussel sprouts. So, I quartered some brussels and roasted them in olive oil, salt, and pepper until they were all charred and crispy and delicious. I caramelized some onions, and sauteed with them some mushrooms and garlic and spices (most notably, sage).  Paul grated a lot of cheddar (grating cheese is Paul’s most frequent kitchen duty, I hate doing it).  I also threw some chopped walnuts in with the veggies for this casserole – the bites of the finished product that had walnut in them were amazing, and I would add even more nuts next time. While I boiled the bowtie pasta, I made the lazyman’s cheese sauce in a double boiler over the pasta pot.  This sauce consists of a big glop of sour cream (or creme fraiche, or yogurt) into which you stir your grated cheddar until it becomes melty and incorporated and uniformly a sauce. Last night I added a splash of milk to thin it out.

Meanwhile, I mixed together a breadcrumb topping.  It involved some breadcrumbs, smoked paprika, cayenne, and a bunch of sesame seeds.  At the last second I melted about a tablespoon of butter and mixed that into the breadcrumb mixture. I also got out my round casserole dish that I had never used, and greased it.  Oh, how I love this casserole dish! I bought it this past summer at Treasures in Muskoka – if you are ever around Huntsville or the west side of Algonquin Park, you gotta go to Treasures.  It’s on highway 60 and it is this amazing, crowded little thrift shop full of, well, treasures.  I have beautiful green glasses that I got from there, among other things, and this year I bought this brown tinted glass casserole dish with lid and a wicker holding basket.  I love it. I love coloured glass and I love wicker casserole dish holder thingys.

When the pasta was al dente, I drained it, and tossed it with the veggies I had earlier set aside (i.e. the onions, mushroom, brussel sprouts, etc.) and then added the cheese sauce and mixed until evenly coated.  I poured that into my greased casserole dish, topped with the breadcrumb mixture and some extra grated cheddar. Then I baked it at 400 for about 20 minutes, put it on broil for a couple minutes, and took it out (where I promptly and happily put it in its wicker warmer holder).

This pasta was SO GOOD. My nighttime bad-lighting photos do not do it justice, but then again, photos rarely do a casserole justice.  It was brussel-y and sage-y and breadcrumb-y and smoky and hearty and Paul and I nearly ate the entire dish full, but Paul put away his last half-plateful and I cannot wait to eat it with my dinner tonight. This, I suspect, will become a standby this winter.

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I know what you’re thinking – “That Liz, any excuse to say the word ‘nips’!” but it isn’t like that, I swear. A little while back, I started buying goldfish crackers. This increased when the President’s Choice version came out not too long ago, which are shaped like penguins and just a little bit cheaper than the original.  I started buying these partly to try and break my Crispers habit, because while Crispers are certainly delicious, they are also full of all kinds of crap.  Surprisingly, goldfish/penguin crackers mostly are not.  I mean, they have some things in them that I wouldn’t use in my food at home, but not nearly as bad as the barrage of un-pronounceable things that many other crackers have in them.  And so a cheese-y cracker addiction began.  Sometimes I would opt for Cheese Nips (I swear, I’m not trying to advertise for any of these brands) if they were on sale.  But always, as I bought these, there was a voice in my head nagging me. It was saying “Stop buying these – save your money.  You know you can make these at home”.  This voice usually comes up in the cookie aisle, when I’m tempted to buy some crappy grocery store cookies and I talk myself out of it with images of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Not too long ago, I never would have dreamed of making crackers.  Even though I’ve seen roommates make them before with ease.  But those are usually healthy crackers, and I just want a salty snack.  All the homemade crackers I pictured in my head were covered in seeds and made with spelt and all that – completely delicious for many purposes, but generally not the kind of crackers I buy anyways.   But then, almost a year ago now, there was THIS.  I remember reading that post and having my mind blown.  It looked so easy.  So few ingredients! And yet, I didn’t have a goldfish-shaped cookie cutter.  So I put off making them.  And oh yeah, I didn’t really have a good food processor either.  Always excuses, and I kept buying the cheesey store crackers.

Today, I came home from the grocery store to do my homework.  And I did homework, for a little while.  And then I remembered that every day last week I brought penguin-cheese crackers with me to school in my lunch, and I didn’t have any more for this week.  I remembered that I just bought 2 blocks of cheese on sale (300g block for 2 bucks! Pretty good deal!).  Without hesitation, I got up, and started grating cheese.  I knew if I started, it would come together in no time, and it did.  The only part of this recipe that takes any time is the actual baking, and that’s not really active time.  So make these for yourself, because holy crap, they are sooo easy and more delicious than any store version, and cheaper, and they only have SIX ingredients. Two of them are flour, and none of them are weird.  And really, truly, you don’t need a goldfish cookie cutter to make them.

Cheese Crackers a la Goldfish (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from The Lee Bros.)

– 1 1/2 cups grated old cheddar cheese (really pack it in those cups, the more cheese the better. If you want to weigh it, its supposed to be 6 ounces of grated cheese)

-4 TBSP of butter (I cut mine into little cubes, and softened a bit in the microwave)

-1/2 cup whole wheat flour

-1/4 cup regular flour

-1/4 tsp. onion powder (optional – you can barely taste it, but I think it adds character)

-1/4 tsp. salt (you can put less – these are not as salty as the store-bought kind, but they are still salty.  I’m a salt fiend, so if you want less, go for it)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and let blend until it forms a ball of dough. This should take about 2 minutes.  THIS was the craziest thing ever! When I turned on my food processor, it just looked like bread crumbs, and I thought there was no way it would come together into a ball of dough.  Did I miss something? Am I supposed to add some water? I checked the recipe again and read through the comments.  Nope, no water. I resisted the urge to add some right away and decided to (gasp!) follow the directions. It was nuts, I’ve never seen this before.  A mix of totally dry and crumbly bits started to get more clumpy, and more clumpy, until suddenly it was one big ball of dough and my food processor was working hard to push it around in circles.  Crazy! So, have faith in this dough.

Roll it out (on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin) until it is 1/8 inch thick.  I never know how thick my dough is, so just try and get it fairly thin, yet thick enough that you are still actually able to pick it up off your rolling surface. Since I don’t have any cookie cutters, I just cut my crackers into squares, placed them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, pricked them a few times with a fork (to let the steam escape) and misted them with water.  In my insanely-fast-super-hot oven, these only took about 5-6 minutes per batch, but the recipe said 12-15.  So keep an eye on them.  Take them out when they are starting to be golden at the edges, but before they burn (duh).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Keep in an airtight container at room temperature.  Sometimes things like this go soggy when they are in containers, I will let you know if that happens.

I ate about a million of them while I baked, and still ended up with about 80 1-inch square crackers, so pretty good.  They cost me about $1 worth of cheese to make, and the rest of the ingredients I always have and so I count that cost as pretty much negligible. So all in all, a great deal. Even if “I love homemade-cheesey-square-crackers cuz they’re so delicious!” doesn’t quite flow off the tongue in the same way. Enjoy!

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