Category Archives: Cheese

Bacon, Leek & Cheddar Mini Quiches: Test Kitchen Tuesday

This weekend I am hosting a bridal shower for a friend’s daughter, who is really more like family. Do you know what it’s like having neighbors or friends that have been through thick and thin with you and you consider their kids, your kids? Well, that is what makes this bridal shower so special.  I love cooking, but cooking for a gathering of friends rates at the top of my favorite things list.

These Bacon, Leek & Cheddar Mini Quiches at FineCooking.com will be a tasty addition to the list of light lunch ideas—and a great excuse to buy a new pan.  To accommodate all of our guests, I will adjust this recipe for a gluten-free and lactose-free menu, I like that I can make them in advance.  Who doesn’t need more recipes for make-ahead hors d’oeuvresI hope you join me in this delicious adventure!

In the next week or so:

1.  Make the recipe (posted below)
2.  Leave a comment describing your experience, opinion, adjustments, etc.
3.  Subscribe to comments if you want an update to see what others have done.
4.  If you are especially please with your creation, send a photo to savoringtoday@comcast.net, or include a link to your site.

Bacon, Leek & Cheddar Mini Quiches

Source: by Kate Hays, Fine Cooking
Yield: 4 dozen
3/4     lb.  bacon — cut into medium dice
3       cups  medium-diced leeks — washed and drained
(about 3 leeks, white and light green parts only)
1 1/4   cups  half-and-half
1        cup  grated extra-sharp Cheddar (4 oz.)
2        large  eggs
2        large  egg yolks
2        tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1        teaspoons  kosher salt
1/2      teaspoons  freshly ground black pepper
1/4      teaspoons  ground nutmeg
Cooking spray
2        1.1 lb.  packages frozen puff pastry sheets — thawed according to package directions (preferably Pepperidge Farm brand)
Flour as needed for rolling out the dough

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until browned and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 to 2 Tbs. of fat in the skillet. Set the skillet over medium heat and cook the leeks, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.

While the leeks cool, combine the half-and-half, Cheddar, eggs, egg yolks, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Add the cooled leeks and the bacon and stir to combine.

Assemble the mini quiches: Lightly spray four mini muffin tins (or two if your tins have two dozen cups) with cooking spray.

Working with one sheet of puff pastry dough at a time, use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 10- by 18-inch rectangle. Stamp out 3-inch circles of dough with a cookie cutter and gently press the rounds into the mini muffin tins, making sure that each round is centered and that the dough extends up to the top of the tin. Fill each with about 1 Tbs. of filling-you can fill right to the top of the dough. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling until all the filling is used. You may not need all the dough; save leftovers for another use. You can bake the quiches immediately or freeze and bake them later (see Make-Ahead Tip, below).

To bake: Heat the oven to 400°F and position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Bake the quiches, switching the position of the tins halfway through baking, until the filling is puffed and the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Make Ahead Tips: Unbaked quiches can be frozen for up to a month. Freeze the quiches in the muffin tins for about 2 hours, or until set. Remove them from the tins and transfer them to an airtight container, setting parchment or plastic wrap between layers, or seal them in a plastic bag. To bake, transfer the quiches back to the tins and bake immediately, without thawing. Baking time for frozen quiches will be about 30 to 35 minutes.

NOTES: You’ll need four mini muffin tins for this recipe (or two if your tins have 24 cups). If you don’t have enough muffin tins, you can assemble the quiches in batches, storing the remaining egg mixture and dough in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

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Pancetta-Gruyere Burger with Grilled Vidalia Onions

Pancetta and Gruyere cheese mixed with ground beef from a local butcher deliver a burger worthy of peak grilling season.  Lean pancetta infuses savory, juicy flavor without overpowering the beef, while the earthy, distinct flavor of Gruyere brings a rich nuance.  A few basic seasonings, toasted bun, grilled Vidalia onions and you are ready to eat right there at the grill—no other condiments required. Of course, it is good manners to share, so you’ll want to wait ’til you get to the table.

Pancetta-Gruyere Burger with Grilled Sweet Onions

Serves 4
1        pound  ground beef — 90% lean
4        ounces  pancetta (lean) — chopped
1/2      cup  Gruyere cheese — cut into 1/4″ cubes
1/2      teaspoon  smoked paprika
1/2      teaspoon  granulated garlic
1/2      teaspoon  onion powder
1/2      teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1        large  sweet onion — Vidalia
4        buns
butter
olive oil

Slice onion to create 1/4″ discs, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper; set aside. Lightly butter the buns and set aside.

Gently mix seasoning, pancetta, and cheese into ground beef. Form 1/3 lb. patties with meat mixture.

Grill onions over medium-high heat until softened and lightly browned on both sides.

Grill burgers over medium heat until seared well on both sides and cooked through. While the burgers finish, grill buttered buns (butter side down) until toasted.

Serve the burger on the toasted bun with the grilled onions piled on top.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Hearth & Soul Blog Hop
The Nourishing Gourmet Monday Mania
Real Food Whole Health Traditional Tuesdays
SS & GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday
Mom Trends Friday Food
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
Real Food Forager Fat Tuesday

Omelets: Perfection is in the Eye of the Beholder (or Taster)

Scanning cookbooks or browsing the web, you find scores of differing opinions about how to cook the perfect omelet—everything from medium heat to high heat, slowly, quickly, non-stick pan, or specialized omelet pan. Regardless the technique you choose, practice will be your greatest teacher.  For a little fun, I included an instructional video by Julia Child because her straightforward style makes me smile (especially the way she chucks the specialized omelet pan under the table).

Though non-stick pans are often recommended for omelets, I use cast iron since we stopped using non-stick years ago.  Plain eggs have never been my favorite, so I fold savory ingredients inside the eggs and add fresh on top.  Of course, the beauty of omelets is their versatility, substitutions are as simple as choosing what you like. This recipe is one of our favorites—fluffy eggs folded over spinach, mushrooms, cheese, onion, and garlic, with a garnish of fresh avocado, tomato, basil, and feta. Practice, be creative with ingredients and enjoy omelets for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Spinach-Mushroom Omelet with Avocado, Tomato, Basil, & Feta

Serves: 2
3      whole  eggs
1       pinch  sea salt
1       pinch  black pepper — freshly ground
1       tablespoon  milk
2      tablespoons  butter
1       whole  green onion — green and white part
1       clove  garlic — minced
5       large  mushroom — sliced thick
2       handfuls  fresh spinach
1/3   cup  cheese — any favorite that will melt
Garnish:
1/2    whole  avocado — sliced
1        whole  Roma tomato — seeded and chopped
3        large  basil leaves — chiffonade
2        tablespoons  feta cheese

In a skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened.  Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms release their juices. Add two large handfuls of spinach and stir while cooking until spinach is just wilted. Remove from pan and set aside on a plate until ready to fill the omelet.

Add a tablespoon of butter to skillet over medium heat and swirl so that melted butter covers the pan. Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper together until a little foamy.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan and lightly scramble it with the back of a fork or rubber spatula for 30-40 seconds. When eggs begin to set, stop stirring. Spread the omelet into an even layer and allow cooking for another 30 seconds. Gently test the edges of the eggs with a spatula and work to get them to release from the pan.

Once the eggs are nearly set, but not firm, remove pan from heat. Add the cheese and spinach-mushroom mixture to one side. Gently slide a spatula under the opposite side and fold over the filling. Cover with a lid and allow to set for 1-2 minutes to melt the cheese.

Transfer to a plate and garnish with slices of avocado, fresh tomatoes, basil, and feta.

Notes: Eggs cook quickly, it is important to have all ingredients prepped before beginning cooking the eggs.

Cut vegetables work best in omelets when lightly cooked before filling the omelet so the vegetables can release some of their moisture. Otherwise, the omelet can become soggy. 

To preserve a cut avocado, leave the peel and the pit in tact on the part saved. Place the unused portion in a resealable bag with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice to keep the avocado from turning brown. Use within 1-2 days for best results.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Real Food Whole Health Traditional Tuesdays
SS & GF Lightly Indulgent Tuesday
Hearth & Soul Blog Hop
Fresh Bites Friday
Girlichef for EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potlock
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania

Garnishing a Meal: More Than Just A Pretty Plate

Blackened Salmon garnished with Feta, Basil, and Fresh Tomato

So, you have dinner on the table with the last ounce of energy you could muster for the day and the thought comes to you, how I can garnish it? … Uh, hardly.  I know, it should be enough to have dinner done every day, but a simple garnish can transform a meal from ho-hum to ta-da! with little effort.  An easy rule of thumb to is, if it goes in it, it can go on it.  If a recipe calls for celery and onion, then celery leaves and scallions will be a complementary garnish when served.  The fresh components of those ingredients already in a dish create a bright, enzyme-rich finish.  These are just a few suggestions using common grocery items as a garnish to make any meal even more appealing.

Avocado — sliced or cubed, avocado goes on tacos, grilled or blackened fish, breakfast eggs, sandwiches, salads, soups, and more.

Croutons — go beyond the usual salad, this cupboard staple works great for soups too.  It won’t boost the nutritional value of the meal, but does add interest and texture.

Fresh herbs add color, flavor, and increase nutritional value. If a recipe calls for dried herbs, adding the same herb as a fresh garnish is guaranteed to enhance the dish.  These are three I use most often on just about everything.

Parsley — that leafy green sprig placed on many restaurant plates is there for more than contrast, it is a digestive aid and breath freshener.  This mild herb is a great place to begin if unfamiliar with using fresh herbs.

Cilantro — a cousin to parley, sometimes called Chinese parsley, fresh cilantro can be used in the same manner as parsley, placement of a stem and leaves or chopped and sprinkled atop a meal.

Basil — used for more than pesto, basil is an aromatic and beautiful garnish when julienned and sprinkled over pasta dishes or grilled meats. Basil varieties are fun to experiment with allowing flavor accents of lemon or cinnamon to bring new dimensions to old favorites.

Fennel fronds, celery leaves, and scallions are often regarded as waste when they could be used to garnish instead.

Lemon / Lime / Orange — citrus wedges or slices brighten and enhance meats, salads, and vegetables with a fresh squeeze of Vitamin C on each plate.

Nuts & Seeds — not just for your morning yogurt, nuts and seeds add crunch and texture to vegetable dishes and fruit or lettuce salads. Fiber, healthy oils, and antioxidants make these a garnish powerhouse.

Parmesan, Feta, Blue Cheese, Gorgonzola, and Chèvre (soft goat cheese) deliver on taste with only a small amount, so strong-flavored cheeses like these are ideal on grilled meat, pasta, burgers, salads, soups, Quiche, and vegetables.

Tomatoesseed and chop tomatoes, or quarter grape tomatoes; toss with salt and pepper before adding as a topper (allow to sit for 5-10 minutes). The salt will help the tomatoes release a little juice and enhance flavor. Use fresh, seeded tomatoes to garnish scrambled eggs, grilled meats, crostini, soups, or pasta dishes.

Beef Stroganoff Garnished with Parmesan and Parsley

Chopped Fresh Tomatoes & Basil Garnish

Shaved Parmesan & Goat Cheese Garnish

Sliced Almond Garnish on Green Beans

Crouton Garnish on Cream of Asparagus Soup

Cilantro, Avocado, Sour Cream Garnish

Fruit, Walnut, and Feta Garnish on Roasted Asparagus

Celery Leaf Garnish on Seafood Chowder

Lime Wedge Garnish with Mango-Avocado Salsa

Is there a favorite garnish you like to use? 

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
Girlichef for EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania
SS & GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday


Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries [via Nutmeg Nanny]: Feature Fridays

It is Fourth of July and folks will make some amazing patriotic themed foods this weekend.  When this post from Nutmeg Nanny caught my eye last week, I quickly scooped up the recipe for a bridal shower, but then realized a single blueberry on top of this fruity, cheesecake goodness would make a fabulous red, white, and blue treat (without the artificial food colorings).  Take a look, browse a little, and do what the photo suggests. Enjoy!


Update:
Check out this version of Cheesecake Strawberries with Chocolate too!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries with Chocolate Accents

Caprese Salad: Thank a Water Buffalo

While visiting Italy a few years ago, we marveled at the flavors created by simple, quality ingredients. Caprese Salad was on our list of classic Italian food to savor; it was a memorable part of our trip.  Traditionally served as a starter, or appetizer, it can also be a refreshing summertime lunch. With only a handful of ingredients, it is vital that each one is carefully selected, preferably at seasonal peak.  April is a little early to find the best tomatoes or basil, but I’ll do my best since it is a special request for my husband’s birthday dinner.

Authentic Caprese Salad is made with buffalo mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala), made from the milk of domesticated water buffalo.  Although there are a few water buffalo herds in the U.S. producing dairy and meat, it is easier to find imported buffalo mozzarella in stores like Whole Foods, Costco (seasonally), or specialty shops. When you taste this amazing salad, you’ll want to thank a water buffalo if you can find one 😉 … I still have  The Water Buffalo Song in Silly Songs with Larry by Veggie Tales stuck in my head from when my kids were little.

Of course, fresh cow’s milk mozzarella is a fine substitute for this salad, just be sure it is a quality cheese for best results.

Vine-ripe tomatoes, Bufala Mozzarella, Basil

Caprese Salad

Serves: 4 as an appetizer
3-4          whole  plum tomatoes — sliced 1/4″ thick
16            whole  basil leaves — washed and dried
1              pound  buffalo mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala) — sliced 1/4″ thick
extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper
sea salt

Allow cheese to sit on a paper towel-lined plate at room temperature for 30 minutes to absorb extra liquid until ready to slice and serve. This salad should be served cool, but not cold.

On a large platter or plate, arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices so there is an even number of slices of each. Arrange basil as a garnish on top so that there is 1-2 basil leaves for each serving of tomato and cheese, or sprinkle julienned basil over the cheese and tomato. 

Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the tomato, cheese, and basil; season with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
SS & GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday
Mom Trends Friday Food
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania

New York-Style Blueberry Cheesecake: Test Kitchen Tuesday

New York-Style Blueberry Cheesecake

Disengaged base and wall of springform pan.

Image via Wikipedia

I have always been more of a cook than a baker, gravitating toward savory over sweet. However, this week is another birthday at our house with a request for New York-Style Blueberry Cheesecake, so that is the focus of Test Kitchen Tuesday this week—I am even purchasing a springform pan to do this! 

While researching recipes, it was apparent there is a clear divide among cheesecake fans, some prefer creamy and light while others want more dense and rich cheesecake.  When my husband mentioned that the best cheesecake he had ever eaten was during our trip to New York, it was obvious he preferred the dense, rich cheesecake of the Big Apple.  In order to satisfy a variety of appetites this week I am posting three cheesecake recipes in which to choose.

The first is a recipe from Epicurious.com (sent from a friend) for Blueberry Cheesecake, which is described in the reviews to be the light and creamy version.  The second is from Cooksillustrated.com for New York-Style Cheesecake; this recipe was very similar to Emeril’s.  The third is a White Chocolate Blueberry Cheesecake (also sent from a friend) which sounds like a special occasion cake for sure—I am planning to use this crust and topping recipe for the New York-Style Cheesecake.  I hope you join me in this delicious adventure!

In the next week or so:

1.  Make one of the recipes (posted below)
2.  Leave a comment describing your experience, opinion, adjustments, or suggestions.  ♥ If you do focus on altering it to economize, choose healthier ingredients or techniques, make it gluten-free/allergy sensitive, embellish for entertaining, or incorporate into batch/once-a-month cooking, please mention that too.
3.  Subscribe to comments so you can see what others have done.
4.  If you are feeling especially proud of your creation, snap a photo and send it to me at savoringtoday@comcast.net so it can be included.

Blueberry Cheesecake

Source: Epicurious.com
For crust
2 1/3   cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2      cup unsalted butter — (1 stick) melted
1/4      cup sugar

For filling
4           8-ounce packages cream cheese — room temperature
1 1/2   cups sugar
1/4      cup all-purpose flour
5           large eggs
1           16-ounce container sour cream
1/4      cup milk
1           tablespoon vanilla extract

For topping 
1/3      cup all-fruit blueberry spread
2          6-ounce baskets fresh blueberries

Make crust:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Wrap outside of 10-inch-diameter springform pan with heavy-duty foil. Combine all ingredients in processor. Blend using on/off turns just until crumbs are moist. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and 2 inches up sides of prepared pan. Bake until crust begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer crust to rack and cool. Maintain oven temperature.

Make filling:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until will blended. Beat in flour. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined. Beat in sour cream, milk, and vanilla. Pour filling into crust.

Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come 1 inch up sides of pan. Bake cheesecake until just set in center and top is slightly puffed and golden brown, about 1 hour. Turn off oven; keep door closed. Let cheesecake stand in oven 1 hour. Remove cheesecake from roasting pan. Refrigerate until cold, at least 6 hours. Cover; refrigerate overnight.

Make topping:
Stir blueberry spread in large skillet over low heat until melted. Remove from heat. Add blueberries; toss to coat. Spoon blueberry mixture over top of cake, spreading evenly. Chill until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Run small sharp knife around sides of cake to loosen. Release pan sides. Transfer cake to platter. Cut into wedges.

Note: The following photo is by Julie Blank, she substituted the fresh strawberries for the blueberry topping.

Strawberry Cheesecake by Julie Blank

New York-Style Cheesecake

Source: Cooksillustrated.com
Crust:
1           cup  graham cracker crumbs — (4 ounces, 8 whole crackers, processed in food processor until uniformly fine)
1          tablespoon  granulated sugar
5         tablespoons  unsalted butter — melted, plus additional 1 tablespoon melted butter for greasing pan

Cheesecake Filling:
2 1/2   pounds  cream cheese — cut into rough 1-inch chunks and softened
1/8    teaspoon  table salt
1 1/2   cups  granulated sugar — (10 1/2 ounces)
1/3    cup  sour cream — (2 1/2 ounces)
2           teaspoons  lemon juice from 1 lemon
2           teaspoons  vanilla extract
2           large  egg yolks
6           large  eggs

For the crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar in medium bowl; add 5 tablespoons melted butter and toss with fork until evenly moistened. Brush bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan with most of remaining melted butter, making sure to leave enough to brush pan in step 3. Empty crumbs into springform pan and press evenly into pan bottom. Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around edges, about 13 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

For the cheesecake filling: Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese at medium-low speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater, bottom, and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula; add salt and about half of sugar and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; beat in remaining sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla, and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; add yolks and beat at medium-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl; add whole eggs two at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, and scraping bowl between additions.

Brush sides of springform pan with remaining melted butter. Set springform pan on rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills if springform pan leaks). Pour filling into cooled crust and bake 10 minutes; without opening oven door, reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue to bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of cheesecake registers about 150 degrees, about 11/2 hours. Transfer cake to wire rack and cool 5 minutes; run paring knife between cake and side of springform pan. Cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours. (Cake can be refrigerated up to 4 days.)

To unmold cheesecake, remove sides of pan. Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, and then slide cake onto serving plate. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

NOTES: When cutting the cake, have a pitcher of hot tap water nearby; dipping the blade of the knife into the water and wiping it clean with a kitchen towel after each cut helps make neat slices.

White Chocolate Blueberry Cheesecake

Source: Kris Gasper
Crust:

2        cups  crushed graham crackers
1         cup  slivered almonds
1/2    cup  white sugar
1/4    cup  clarified butter — melted
2         tablespoons  caramel topping

Filling:
1          pound  white chocolate — chopped
32       ounces  cream cheese — softened
3/4     cup  white sugar
4          eggs — beaten
2           egg yolks
1           tablespoon  all-purpose flour
1           teaspoon  vanilla extract

Topping:
1/2      cup  white sugar
1           teaspoon  cornstarch
1/4      cup  water
1           pint  fresh blueberries
2           teaspoons  lemon juice

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).

Make the crust: In a food processor, blend the graham cracker crumbs, almonds and sugar until the almonds are ground fine. Pour in the melted butter and caramel while processing, until mixture is combined. Press the mixture onto the bottom, and half way up the side of a 10″ springform pan.

Make the filling: In a metal bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in the flour and the vanilla and blend in the melted white chocolate slowly, beating until the filling is well combined. Pour filling into crust.

Bake in the middle of preheated oven for 1 hour. Then turn off the heat, and crack the oven door an inch, letting the cheesecake cool in the oven to room temperature. Cover loosely and refrigerate overnight before removing from pan.

Make the topping: In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water and blueberries. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Press through a fine sieve. Stir in lemon juice, allow to cool, and then pour over the cheesecake. Store extra in a glass jar.

Ugly Cheesecake after the "fall" while cooking on the counter; and its components. Blueberry Topping transformed the unlovely into forgiving-cheesecake-lovely.

New York-Style Blueberry Cheesecake

New York-Style Blueberry Cheesecake