Cheese, please


Cat Campbell/For The Madera Tribune

If you like, add some chopped ham and green chilies to a mac and cheese casserole.

 

There are a lot of national food days listed for January, and some are a bit perplexing, such as National Apricot Day, which I would have assumed to be more appropriate sometime during the summer months. National Cheese Lovers Day is January 20, and while we aren’t quite that far into the month yet, cheese sounded like a pretty good subject to explore as far as recipes go.


I have a bag of shredded Colby Jack on my counter as I type, and I will mix most of it into the tamale pie casserole I plan to fix for dinner. (I’d share the recipe but I don’t use one.)


I hope this New Year will be a good one for everybody. Time will tell, and may we all have the patience to endure whatever comes along. It’s a good idea to mainly focus on things that can put a smile on our faces, such as family and friends, good health and of course, good food.


Macaroni and cheese


2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni


1/2 cup butter, cubed


1/2 cup flour


1 1/2 to 2 cups milk


1 cup sour cream


8 ounces cubed processed cheese (such as Velveeta)


1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1/2 teaspoon salt


1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard


1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)


2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, medium or sharp


1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.


2. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; stir in sour cream, processed cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, dry mustard and pepper until smooth and cheese is melted. Add additional milk to reach desired consistency, if needed.


3. Drain macaroni, toss with Cheddar cheese. Transfer to a greased 3-quart baking dish, then mix in the creamy cheese sauce.


4. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Makes 6 servings.


My favorite dip


1 loaf sheepherder’s or Dutch crust bread (round)


1/4 pound (1 stick) butter


1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped


1 bunch green onions, chopped


12 cloves fresh garlic, minced


1 package (8-oz.) cream cheese, room temperature


1 container (16-oz.) sour cream


12 ounces (about 3 cups) Cheddar cheese, grated


1 can (10-oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and cut into quarters. Note: I like to use marinated ones but many people use the plain ones.


1. Cut a hole in the top of the bread about 5 inches in diameter. Remove the soft bread from inside and discard or save for making bread crumbs at a future time. Set the bread top aside.


2. In 2 tablespoons butter, saute the green onions and garlic until onions wilt. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.


3. In a bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream and Cheddar cheese. Fold in water chestnuts, artichokes, onions and garlic; mix well.


4. Place mixture into hollowed-out bread loaf and place the top back on. Wrap in a double thickness of foil and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.


Cheesy potato chowder


1 1/2 cups water


3 medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed


1 rib celery, sliced


1 medium carrot, chopped


1/4 cup butter


3 green onions, sliced


1/4 cup flour


1 teaspoon salt


1/8 teaspoon black pepper


4 cups milk


2 cups (8 ounces) shredded American cheese


1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese


1. Combine water, potatoes, celery and carrot in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.


2. Meanwhile, melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir onions in butter 2 minutes or until tender but not brown. Stir in flour, salt and pepper; cook and stir about 1 minute.


3. Stir milk and potato mixture into flour mixture; cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more.


4. Stir in cheeses and reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until cheeses are melted and mixture is hot, stirring constantly.


Potatoes Au Gratin


3 tablespoons butter


3 tablespoons flour


1 1/2 teaspoons salt


1/8 teaspoon pepper


2 cups milk


1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, (medium or sharp)


5 cups thinly sliced peeled Russet potatoes (about 6 medium)


1/2 cup chopped onion


Additional pepper, optional


1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring mixture to a boil, then cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in cheese until melted. Add potatoes and onion.


2. Transfer mixture to a greased, 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender. If desired, top with additional pepper. Makes 8 servings.

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